As I never had any intention of beginning the Digression, I am making all this preparation for, till I come to the 74th chapter—I have this chapter to put to whatever use I think proper—I have twenty this moment ready for it—I could write my chapter of Button-holes in it—
Or my chapter of Pishes, which should follow them—
Or my chapter of Knots, in case their reverences have done with them—they might lead me into mischief: the safest way is to follow the track of the learned, and raise objections against what I have been writing, tho' I declare before-hand, I know no more than my heels how to answer them.
And first, it may be said, there is a pelting kind of thersitical satire, as black as the very ink 'tis wrote with—(and by the bye, whoever says so, is indebted to the muster-master general of the Grecian army, for suffering the name of so ugly and foul-mouth'd a man as Thersites to continue upon his roll—for it has furnish'd him with an epithet)—in these productions he will urge, all the personal washings and scrubbings upon earth do a sinking genius no sort of good—but just the contrary, inasmuch as the dirtier the fellow is, the better generally he succeeds in it.
To this, I have no other answer—at least ready—but that the Archbishop of Benevento wrote his nasty Romance of the Galatea, as all the world knows, in a purple coat, waistcoat, and purple pair of breeches; and that the penance set him of writing a commentary upon the book of the Revelations, as severe as it was look'd upon by one part of the world, was far from being deem'd so, by the other, upon the single account of that Investment.
Another objection, to all this remedy, is its want of universality; forasmuch as the shaving part of it, upon which so much stress is laid, by an unalterable law of nature excludes one half of the species entirely from its use: all I can say is, that female writers, whether of England, or of France, must e'en go without it—
As for the Spanish ladies—I am in no sort of distress—
The seventy-fourth chapter is come at last; and brings nothing with it but a sad signature of 'How our pleasures slip from under us in this world!'
For in talking of my digression—I declare before heaven I have made it! What a strange creature is mortal man! said she.
'Tis very true, said I—but 'twere better to get all these things out of our heads, and return to my uncle Toby.
When my uncle Toby and the corporal had marched down to the bottom of the avenue, they recollected their business lay the other way; so they faced about and marched up straight to Mrs. Wadman's door.
I warrant your honour; said the corporal, touching his Montero-cap with his hand, as he passed him in order to give a knock at the door—My uncle Toby, contrary to his invariable way of treating his faithful servant, said nothing good or bad: the truth was, he had not altogether marshal'd his ideas; he wish'd for another conference, and as the corporal was mounting up the three steps before the door—he hem'd twice—a portion of my uncle Toby's most modest spirits fled, at each expulsion, towards the corporal; he stood with the rapper of the door suspended for a full minute in his hand, he scarce knew why. Bridget stood perdue within, with her finger and her thumb upon the latch, benumb'd with expectation; and Mrs. Wadman, with an eye ready to be deflowered again, sat breathless behind the window-curtain of her bed-chamber, watching their approach.
Trim! said my uncle Toby—but as he articulated the word, the minute expired, and Trim let fall the rapper.
My uncle Toby perceiving that all hopes of a conference were knock'd on the head by it—whistled Lillabullero.
As Mrs. Bridget's finger and thumb were upon the latch, the corporal did not knock as often as perchance your honour's taylor—I might have taken my example something nearer home; for I owe mine, some five and twenty pounds at least, and wonder at the man's patience—
—But this is nothing at all to the world: only 'tis a cursed thing to be in debt; and there seems to be a fatality in the exchequers of some poor princes, particularly those of our house, which no Economy can bind down in irons: for my own part, I'm persuaded there is not any one prince, prelate, pope, or potentate, great or small upon earth, more desirous in his heart of keeping straight with the world than I am—or who takes more likely means for it. I never give above half a guinea—or walk with boots—or cheapen tooth-picks—or lay out a shilling upon a band-box the year round; and for the six months I'm in the country, I'm upon so small a scale, that with all the good temper in the world, I outdo Rousseau, a bar length—for I keep neither man or boy, or horse, or cow, or dog, or cat, or any thing that can eat or drink, except a thin poor piece of a Vestal (to keep my fire in), and who has generally as bad an appetite as myself—but if you think this makes a philosopher of me—I would not, my good people! give a rush for your judgments.
True philosophy—but there is no treating the subject whilst my uncle is whistling Lillabullero.
—Let us go into the house.
—You shall see the very place, Madam; said my uncle Toby.
Mrs. Wadman blush'd—look'd towards the door—turn'd pale—blush'd slightly again—recover'd her natural colour—blush'd worse than ever; which, for the sake of the unlearned reader, I translate thus—
'L..d! I cannot look at it—
'What would the world say if I look'd at it?
'I should drop down, if I look'd at it—
'I wish I could look at it—
'There can be no sin in looking at it.
—'I will look at it.'
Whilst all this was running through Mrs. Wadman's imagination, my uncle Toby had risen from the sopha, and got to the other side of the parlour door, to give Trim an order about it in the passage—
...—I believe it is in the garret, said my uncle Toby—I saw it there, an' please your honour, this morning, answered Trim—Then prithee, step directly for it, Trim, said my uncle Toby, and bring it into the parlour.
The corporal did not approve of the orders, but most cheerfully obeyed them. The first was not an act of his will—the second was; so he put on his Montero-cap, and went as fast as his lame knee would let him. My uncle Toby returned into the parlour, and sat himself down again upon the sopha.
—You shall lay your finger upon the place—said my uncle Toby.—I will not touch it, however, quoth Mrs. Wadman to herself.
This requires a second translation:—it shews what little knowledge is got by mere words—we must go up to the first springs.
Now in order to clear up the mist which hangs upon these three pages, I must endeavour to be as clear as possible myself.
Rub your hands thrice across your foreheads—blow your noses—cleanse your emunctories—sneeze, my good people!—God bless you—
Now give me all the help you can.
As there are fifty different ends (counting all ends in—as well civil as religious) for which a woman takes a husband, the first sets about and carefully weighs, then separates and distinguishes in her mind, which of all that number of ends is hers; then by discourse, enquiry, argumentation, and inference, she investigates and finds out whether she has got hold of the right one—and if she has—then, by pulling it gently this way and that way, she further forms a judgment, whether it will not break in the drawing.
The imagery under which Slawkenbergius impresses this upon the reader's fancy, in the beginning of his third Decad, is so ludicrous, that the honour I bear the sex, will not suffer me to quote it—otherwise it is not destitute of humour.
'She first, saith Slawkenbergius, stops the asse, and holding his halter in her left hand (lest he should get away) she thrusts her right hand into the very bottom of his pannier to search for it—For what?—you'll not know the sooner, quoth Slawkenbergius, for interrupting me—
'I have nothing, good Lady, but empty bottles;' says the asse.
'I'm loaded with tripes;' says the second.
—And thou art little better, quoth she to the third; for nothing is there in thy panniers but trunk-hose and pantofles—and so to the fourth and fifth, going on one by one through the whole string, till coming to the asse which carries it, she turns the pannier upside down, looks at it—considers it—samples it—measures it—stretches it—wets it—dries it—then takes her teeth both to the warp and weft of it.
—Of what? for the love of Christ!
I am determined, answered Slawkenbergius, that all the powers upon earth shall never wring that secret from my breast.
We live in a world beset on all sides with mysteries and riddles—and so 'tis no matter—else it seems strange, that Nature, who makes every thing so well to answer its destination, and seldom or never errs, unless for pastime, in giving such forms and aptitudes to whatever passes through her hands, that whether she designs for the plough, the caravan, the cart—or whatever other creature she models, be it but an asse's foal, you are sure to have the thing you wanted; and yet at the same time should so eternally bungle it as she does, in making so simple a thing as a married man.
Whether it is in the choice of the clay—or that it is frequently spoiled in the baking; by an excess of which a husband may turn out too crusty (you know) on one hand—or not enough so, through defect of heat, on the other—or whether this great Artificer is not so attentive to the little Platonic exigences of that part of the species, for whose use she is fabricating this—or that her Ladyship sometimes scarce knows what sort of a husband will do—I know not: we will discourse about it after supper.
It is enough, that neither the observation itself, or the reasoning upon it, are at all to the purpose—but rather against it; since with regard to my uncle Toby's fitness for the marriage state, nothing was ever better: she had formed him of the best and kindliest clay—had temper'd it with her own milk, and breathed into it the sweetest spirit—she had made him all gentle, generous, and humane—she had filled his heart with trust and confidence, and disposed every passage which led to it, for the communication of the tenderest offices—she had moreover considered the other causes for which matrimony was ordained—
The Donation was not defeated by my uncle Toby's wound.
Now this last article was somewhat apocryphal; and the Devil, who is the great disturber of our faiths in this world, had raised scruples in Mrs. Wadman's brain about it; and like a true devil as he was, had done his own work at the same time, by turning my uncle Toby's Virtue thereupon into nothing but empty bottles, tripes, trunk-hose, and pantofles.
Mrs. Bridget had pawn'd all the little stock of honour a poor chamber-maid was worth in the world, that she would get to the bottom of the affair in ten days; and it was built upon one of the most concessible postulata in nature: namely, that whilst my uncle Toby was making love to her mistress, the corporal could find nothing better to do, than make love to her—'And I'll let him as much as he will, said Bridget, to get it out of him.'
Friendship has two garments; an outer and an under one. Bridget was serving her mistress's interests in the one—and doing the thing which most pleased herself in the other: so had as many stakes depending upon my uncle Toby's wound, as the Devil himself—Mrs. Wadman had but one—and as it possibly might be her last (without discouraging Mrs. Bridget, or discrediting her talents) was determined to play her cards herself.
She wanted not encouragement: a child might have look'd into his hand—there was such a plainness and simplicity in his playing out what trumps he had—with such an unmistrusting ignorance of the ten-ace—and so naked and defenceless did he sit upon the same sopha with widow Wadman, that a generous heart would have wept to have won the game of him.
Let us drop the metaphor.
—And the story too—if you please: for though I have all along been hastening towards this part of it, with so much earnest desire, as well knowing it to be the choicest morsel of what I had to offer to the world, yet now that I am got to it, any one is welcome to take my pen, and go on with the story for me that will—I see the difficulties of the descriptions I'm going to give—and feel my want of powers.
It is one comfort at least to me, that I lost some fourscore ounces of blood this week in a most uncritical fever which attacked me at the beginning of this chapter; so that I have still some hopes remaining, it may be more in the serous or globular parts of the blood, than in the subtile aura of the brain—be it which it will—an Invocation can do no hurt—and I leave the affair entirely to the invoked, to inspire or to inject me according as he sees good.
Gentle Spirit of sweetest humour, who erst did sit upon the easy pen of my beloved Cervantes; Thou who glidedst daily through his lattice, and turned'st the twilight of his prison into noon-day brightness by thy presence—tinged'st his little urn of water with heaven-sent nectar, and all the time he wrote of Sancho and his master, didst cast thy mystic mantle o'er his wither'd stump (He lost his hand at the battle of Lepanto.), and wide extended it to all the evils of his life—
—Turn in hither, I beseech thee!—behold these breeches!—they are all I have in world—that piteous rent was given them at Lyons—
My shirts! see what a deadly schism has happen'd amongst 'em—for the laps are in Lombardy, and the rest of 'em here—I never had but six, and a cunning gypsey of a laundress at Milan cut me off the fore-laps of five—To do her justice, she did it with some consideration—for I was returning out of Italy.
And yet, notwithstanding all this, and a pistol tinder-box which was moreover filch'd from me at Sienna, and twice that I pay'd five Pauls for two hard eggs, once at Raddicoffini, and a second time at Capua—I do not think a journey through France and Italy, provided a man keeps his temper all the way, so bad a thing as some people would make you believe: there must be ups and downs, or how the duce should we get into vallies where Nature spreads so many tables of entertainment.—'Tis nonsense to imagine they will lend you their voitures to be shaken to pieces for nothing; and unless you pay twelve sous for greasing your wheels, how should the poor peasant get butter to his bread?—We really expect too much—and for the livre or two above par for your suppers and bed—at the most they are but one shilling and ninepence halfpenny—who would embroil their philosophy for it? for heaven's and for your own sake, pay it—pay it with both hands open, rather than leave Disappointment sitting drooping upon the eye of your fair Hostess and her Damsels in the gate-way, at your departure—and besides, my dear Sir, you get a sisterly kiss of each of 'em worth a pound—at least I did—
—For my uncle Toby's amours running all the way in my head, they had the same effect upon me as if they had been my own—I was in the most perfect state of bounty and good-will; and felt the kindliest harmony vibrating within me, with every oscillation of the chaise alike; so that whether the roads were rough or smooth, it made no difference; every thing I saw or had to do with, touch'd upon some secret spring either of sentiment or rapture.
—They were the sweetest notes I ever heard; and I instantly let down the fore-glass to hear them more distinctly—'Tis Maria; said the postillion, observing I was listening—Poor Maria, continued he (leaning his body on one side to let me see her, for he was in a line betwixt us), is sitting upon a bank playing her vespers upon her pipe, with her little goat beside her.
The young fellow utter'd this with an accent and a look so perfectly in tune to a feeling heart, that I instantly made a vow, I would give him a four-and-twenty sous piece, when I got to Moulins—
—And who is poor Maria? said I.
The love and piety of all the villages around us; said the postillion—it is but three years ago, that the sun did not shine upon so fair, so quick-witted and amiable a maid; and better fate did Maria deserve, than to have her Banns forbid, by the intrigues of the curate of the parish who published them—
He was going on, when Maria, who had made a short pause, put the pipe to her mouth, and began the air again—they were the same notes;—yet were ten times sweeter: It is the evening service to the Virgin, said the young man—but who has taught her to play it—or how she came by her pipe, no one knows; we think that heaven has assisted her in both; for ever since she has been unsettled in her mind, it seems her only consolation—she has never once had the pipe out of her hand, but plays that service upon it almost night and day.
The postillion delivered this with so much discretion and natural eloquence, that I could not help decyphering something in his face above his condition, and should have sifted out his history, had not poor Maria taken such full possession of me.
We had got up by this time almost to the bank where Maria was sitting: she was in a thin white jacket, with her hair, all but two tresses, drawn up into a silk-net, with a few olive leaves twisted a little fantastically on one side—she was beautiful; and if ever I felt the full force of an honest heart-ache, it was the moment I saw her—
—God help her! poor damsel! above a hundred masses, said the postillion, have been said in the several parish churches and convents around, for her,—but without effect; we have still hopes, as she is sensible for short intervals, that the Virgin at last will restore her to herself; but her parents, who know her best, are hopeless upon that score, and think her senses are lost for ever.
As the postillion spoke this, Maria made a cadence so melancholy, so tender and querulous, that I sprung out of the chaise to help her, and found myself sitting betwixt her and her goat before I relapsed from my enthusiasm.
Maria look'd wistfully for some time at me, and then at her goat—and then at me—and then at her goat again, and so on, alternately—
—Well, Maria, said I softly—What resemblance do you find?
I do entreat the candid reader to believe me, that it was from the humblest conviction of what a Beast man is,—that I asked the question; and that I would not have let fallen an unseasonable pleasantry in the venerable presence of Misery, to be entitled to all the wit that ever Rabelais scatter'd—and yet I own my heart smote me, and that I so smarted at the very idea of it, that I swore I would set up for Wisdom, and utter grave sentences the rest of my days—and never—never attempt again to commit mirth with man, woman, or child, the longest day I had to live.
As for writing nonsense to them—I believe there was a reserve—but that I leave to the world.
Adieu, Maria!—adieu, poor hapless damsel!—some time, but not now, I may hear thy sorrows from thy own lips—but I was deceived; for that moment she took her pipe and told me such a tale of woe with it, that I rose up, and with broken and irregular steps walk'd softly to my chaise.
—What an excellent inn at Moulins!
When we have got to the end of this chapter (but not before) we must all turn back to the two blank chapters, on the account of which my honour has lain bleeding this half hour—I stop it, by pulling off one of my yellow slippers and throwing it with all my violence to the opposite side of my room, with a declaration at the heel of it—
—That whatever resemblance it may bear to half the chapters which are written in the world, or for aught I know may be now writing in it—that it was as casual as the foam of Zeuxis his horse; besides, I look upon a chapter which has only nothing in it, with respect; and considering what worse things there are in the world—That it is no way a proper subject for satire—
—Why then was it left so? And here without staying for my reply, shall I be called as many blockheads, numsculs, doddypoles, dunderheads, ninny-hammers, goosecaps, joltheads, nincompoops, and sh..t-a-beds—and other unsavoury appellations, as ever the cake-bakers of Lerne cast in the teeth of King Garangantan's shepherds—And I'll let them do it, as Bridget said, as much as they please; for how was it possible they should foresee the necessity I was under of writing the 84th chapter of my book, before the 77th, &c?
—So I don't take it amiss—All I wish is, that it may be a lesson to the world, 'to let people tell their stories their own way.'
The Seventy-seventh Chapter.
As Mrs. Bridget opened the door before the corporal had well given the rap, the interval betwixt that and my uncle Toby's introduction into the parlour, was so short, that Mrs. Wadman had but just time to get from behind the curtain—lay a Bible upon the table, and advance a step or two towards the door to receive him.
My uncle Toby saluted Mrs. Wadman, after the manner in which women were saluted by men in the year of our Lord God one thousand seven hundred and thirteen—then facing about, he march'd up abreast with her to the sopha, and in three plain words—though not before he was sat down—nor after he was sat down—but as he was sitting down, told her, 'he was in love'—so that my uncle Toby strained himself more in the declaration than he needed.
Mrs. Wadman naturally looked down, upon a slit she had been darning up in her apron, in expectation every moment, that my uncle Toby would go on; but having no talents for amplification, and Love moreover of all others being a subject of which he was the least a master—When he had told Mrs. Wadman once that he loved her, he let it alone, and left the matter to work after its own way.
My father was always in raptures with this system of my uncle Toby's, as he falsely called it, and would often say, that could his brother Toby to his processe have added but a pipe of tobacco—he had wherewithal to have found his way, if there was faith in a Spanish proverb, towards the hearts of half the women upon the globe.
My uncle Toby never understood what my father meant; nor will I presume to extract more from it, than a condemnation of an error which the bulk of the world lie under—but the French, every one of 'em to a man, who believe in it, almost as much as the Real Presence, 'That talking of love, is making it.'
—I would as soon set about making a black-pudding by the same receipt.
Let us go on: Mrs. Wadman sat in expectation my uncle Toby would do so, to almost the first pulsation of that minute, wherein silence on one side or the other, generally becomes indecent: so edging herself a little more towards him, and raising up her eyes, sub blushing, as she did it—she took up the gauntlet—or the discourse (if you like it better) and communed with my uncle Toby, thus:
The cares and disquietudes of the marriage state, quoth Mrs. Wadman, are very great. I suppose so—said my uncle Toby: and therefore when a person, continued Mrs. Wadman, is so much at his ease as you are—so happy, captain Shandy, in yourself, your friends and your amusements—I wonder, what reasons can incline you to the state—
—They are written, quoth my uncle Toby, in the Common-Prayer Book.
Thus far my uncle Toby went on warily, and kept within his depth, leaving Mrs. Wadman to sail upon the gulph as she pleased.
—As for children—said Mrs. Wadman—though a principal end perhaps of the institution, and the natural wish, I suppose, of every parent—yet do not we all find, they are certain sorrows, and very uncertain comforts? and what is there, dear sir, to pay one for the heart-achs—what compensation for the many tender and disquieting apprehensions of a suffering and defenceless mother who brings them into life? I declare, said my uncle Toby, smit with pity, I know of none; unless it be the pleasure which it has pleased God—
A fiddlestick! quoth she.
Now there are such an infinitude of notes, tunes, cants, chants, airs, looks, and accents with which the word fiddlestick may be pronounced in all such causes as this, every one of 'em impressing a sense and meaning as different from the other, as dirt from cleanliness—That Casuists (for it is an affair of conscience on that score) reckon up no less than fourteen thousand in which you may do either right or wrong.
Mrs. Wadman hit upon the fiddlestick, which summoned up all my uncle Toby's modest blood into his cheeks—so feeling within himself that he had somehow or other got beyond his depth, he stopt short; and without entering further either into the pains or pleasures of matrimony, he laid his hand upon his heart, and made an offer to take them as they were, and share them along with her.
When my uncle Toby had said this, he did not care to say it again; so casting his eye upon the Bible which Mrs. Wadman had laid upon the table, he took it up; and popping, dear soul! upon a passage in it, of all others the most interesting to him—which was the siege of Jericho—he set himself to read it over—leaving his proposal of marriage, as he had done his declaration of love, to work with her after its own way. Now it wrought neither as an astringent or a loosener; nor like opium, or bark, or mercury, or buckthorn, or any one drug which nature had bestowed upon the world—in short, it work'd not at all in her; and the cause of that was, that there was something working there before—Babbler that I am! I have anticipated what it was a dozen times; but there is fire still in the subject—allons.
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—
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.
—And here is the Maes—and this is the Sambre; said the corporal, pointing with his right hand extended a little towards the map, and his left upon Mrs. Bridget's shoulder—but not the shoulder next him—and this, said he, is the town of Namur—and this the citadel—and there lay the French—and here lay his honour and myself—and in this cursed trench, Mrs. Bridget, quoth the corporal, taking her by the hand, did he receive the wound which crush'd him so miserably here.—In pronouncing which, he slightly press'd the back of her hand towards the part he felt for—and let it fall.
We thought, Mr. Trim, it had been more in the middle,—said Mrs. Bridget—
That would have undone us for ever—said the corporal.
—And left my poor mistress undone too, said Bridget.
The corporal made no reply to the repartee, but by giving Mrs. Bridget a kiss.
Come—come—said Bridget—holding the palm of her left hand parallel to the plane of the horizon, and sliding the fingers of the other over it, in a way which could not have been done, had there been the least wart or protruberance—'Tis every syllable of it false, cried the corporal, before she had half finished the sentence—
—I know it to be fact, said Bridget, from credible witnesses.
—Upon my honour, said the corporal, laying his hand upon his heart, and blushing, as he spoke, with honest resentment—'tis a story, Mrs. Bridget, as false as hell—Not, said Bridget, interrupting him, that either I or my mistress care a halfpenny about it, whether 'tis so or no—only that when one is married, one would chuse to have such a thing by one at least—
It was somewhat unfortunate for Mrs. Bridget, that she had begun the attack with her manual exercise; for the corporal instantly....
It was like the momentary contest in the moist eye-lids of an April morning, 'Whether Bridget should laugh or cry.'
She snatch'd up a rolling-pin—'twas ten to one, she had laugh'd—
She laid it down—she cried; and had one single tear of 'em but tasted of bitterness, full sorrowful would the corporal's heart have been that he had used the argument; but the corporal understood the sex, a quart major to a terce at least, better than my uncle Toby, and accordingly he assailed Mrs. Bridget after this manner.
I know, Mrs. Bridget, said the corporal, giving her a most respectful kiss, that thou art good and modest by nature, and art withal so generous a girl in thyself, that, if I know thee rightly, thou would'st not wound an insect, much less the honour of so gallant and worthy a soul as my master, wast thou sure to be made a countess of—but thou hast been set on, and deluded, dear Bridget, as is often a woman's case, 'to please others more than themselves—'
Bridget's eyes poured down at the sensations the corporal excited.
—Tell me—tell me, then, my dear Bridget, continued the corporal, taking hold of her hand, which hung down dead by her side,—and giving a second kiss—whose suspicion has misled thee?
Bridget sobb'd a sob or two—then open'd her eyes—the corporal wiped 'em with the bottom of her apron—she then open'd her heart and told him all.
My uncle Toby and the corporal had gone on separately with their operations the greatest part of the campaign, and as effectually cut off from all communication of what either the one or the other had been doing, as if they had been separated from each other by the Maes or the Sambre.
My uncle Toby, on his side, had presented himself every afternoon in his red and silver, and blue and gold alternately, and sustained an infinity of attacks in them, without knowing them to be attacks—and so had nothing to communicate—
The corporal, on his side, in taking Bridget, by it had gain'd considerable advantages—and consequently had much to communicate—but what were the advantages—as well as what was the manner by which he had seiz'd them, required so nice an historian, that the corporal durst not venture upon it; and as sensible as he was of glory, would rather have been contented to have gone bareheaded and without laurels for ever, than torture his master's modesty for a single moment—
—Best of honest and gallant servants!—But I have apostrophiz'd thee, Trim! once before—and could I apotheosize thee also (that is to say) with good company—I would do it without ceremony in the very next page.
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.
There will be just time, whilst my uncle Toby and Trim are walking to my father's, to inform you that Mrs. Wadman had, some moons before this, made a confident of my mother; and that Mrs. Bridget, who had the burden of her own, as well as her mistress's secret to carry, had got happily delivered of both to Susannah behind the garden-wall.
As for my mother, she saw nothing at all in it, to make the least bustle about—but Susannah was sufficient by herself for all the ends and purposes you could possibly have, in exporting a family secret; for she instantly imparted it by signs to Jonathan—and Jonathan by tokens to the cook as she was basting a loin of mutton; the cook sold it with some kitchen-fat to the postillion for a groat, who truck'd it with the dairy maid for something of about the same value—and though whisper'd in the hay-loft, Fame caught the notes with her brazen trumpet, and sounded them upon the house-top—In a word, not an old woman in the village or five miles round, who did not understand the difficulties of my uncle Toby's siege, and what were the secret articles which had delayed the surrender.—
My father, whose way was to force every event in nature into an hypothesis, by which means never man crucified Truth at the rate he did—had but just heard of the report as my uncle Toby set out; and catching fire suddenly at the trespass done his brother by it, was demonstrating to Yorick, notwithstanding my mother was sitting by—not only, 'That the devil was in women, and that the whole of the affair was lust;' but that every evil and disorder in the world, of what kind or nature soever, from the first fall of Adam, down to my uncle Toby's (inclusive), was owing one way or other to the same unruly appetite.
Yorick was just bringing my father's hypothesis to some temper, when my uncle Toby entering the room with marks of infinite benevolence and forgiveness in his looks, my father's eloquence re-kindled against the passion—and as he was not very nice in the choice of his words when he was wroth—as soon as my uncle Toby was seated by the fire, and had filled his pipe, my father broke out in this manner.
—That provision should be made for continuing the race of so great, so exalted and godlike a Being as man—I am far from denying—but philosophy speaks freely of every thing; and therefore I still think and do maintain it to be a pity, that it should be done by means of a passion which bends down the faculties, and turns all the wisdom, contemplations, and operations of the soul backwards—a passion, my dear, continued my father, addressing himself to my mother, which couples and equals wise men with fools, and makes us come out of our caverns and hiding-places more like satyrs and four-footed beasts than men.
I know it will be said, continued my father (availing himself of the Prolepsis), that in itself, and simply taken—like hunger, or thirst, or sleep—'tis an affair neither good or bad—or shameful or otherwise.—Why then did the delicacy of Diogenes and Plato so recalcitrate against it? and wherefore, when we go about to make and plant a man, do we put out the candle? and for what reason is it, that all the parts thereof—the congredients—the preparations—the instruments, and whatever serves thereto, are so held as to be conveyed to a cleanly mind by no language, translation, or periphrasis whatever?
—The act of killing and destroying a man, continued my father, raising his voice—and turning to my uncle Toby—you see, is glorious—and the weapons by which we do it are honourable—We march with them upon our shoulders—We strut with them by our sides—We gild them—We carve them—We in-lay them—We enrich them—Nay, if it be but a scoundrel cannon, we cast an ornament upon the breach of it.—
—My uncle Toby laid down his pipe to intercede for a better epithet—and Yorick was rising up to batter the whole hypothesis to pieces—
—When Obadiah broke into the middle of the room with a complaint, which cried out for an immediate hearing.
The case was this:
My father, whether by ancient custom of the manor, or as impropriator of the great tythes, was obliged to keep a Bull for the service of the Parish, and Obadiah had led his cow upon a pop-visit to him one day or other the preceding summer—I say, one day or other—because as chance would have it, it was the day on which he was married to my father's house-maid—so one was a reckoning to the other. Therefore when Obadiah's wife was brought to bed—Obadiah thanked God—
—Now, said Obadiah, I shall have a calf: so Obadiah went daily to visit his cow.
She'll calve on Monday—on Tuesday—on Wednesday at the farthest—
The cow did not calve—no—she'll not calve till next week—the cow put it off terribly—till at the end of the sixth week Obadiah's suspicions (like a good man's) fell upon the Bull.
Now the parish being very large, my father's Bull, to speak the truth of him, was no way equal to the department; he had, however, got himself, somehow or other, thrust into employment—and as he went through the business with a grave face, my father had a high opinion of him.
—Most of the townsmen, an' please your worship, quoth Obadiah, believe that 'tis all the Bull's fault—
—But may not a cow be barren? replied my father, turning to Doctor Slop.
It never happens: said Dr. Slop, but the man's wife may have come before her time naturally enough—Prithee has the child hair upon his head?—added Dr. Slop—
—It is as hairy as I am; said Obadiah.—Obadiah had not been shaved for three weeks—Wheu...u...u...cried my father; beginning the sentence with an exclamatory whistle—and so, brother Toby, this poor Bull of mine, who is as good a Bull as ever p..ss'd, and might have done for Europa herself in purer times—had he but two legs less, might have been driven into Doctors Commons and lost his character—which to a Town Bull, brother Toby, is the very same thing as his life—
L..d! said my mother, what is all this story about?—
A Cock and a Bull, said Yorick—And one of the best of its kind, I ever heard.
End of the Fourth Volume.