When Dr. Slop entered the back parlour, where my father and my uncle Toby were discoursing upon the nature of women,—it was hard to determine whether Dr. Slop's figure, or Dr. Slop's presence, occasioned more surprize to them; for as the accident happened so near the house, as not to make it worth while for Obadiah to remount him,—Obadiah had led him in as he was, unwiped, unappointed, unannealed, with all his stains and blotches on him.—He stood like Hamlet's ghost, motionless and speechless, for a full minute and a half at the parlour-door (Obadiah still holding his hand) with all the majesty of mud. His hinder parts, upon which he had received his fall, totally besmeared,—and in every other part of him, blotched over in such a manner with Obadiah's explosion, that you would have sworn (without mental reservation) that every grain of it had taken effect.
Here was a fair opportunity for my uncle Toby to have triumphed over my father in his turn;—for no mortal, who had beheld Dr. Slop in that pickle, could have dissented from so much, at least, of my uncle Toby's opinion, 'That mayhap his sister might not care to let such a Dr. Slop come so near her....' But it was the Argumentum ad hominem; and if my uncle Toby was not very expert at it, you may think, he might not care to use it.—No; the reason was,—'twas not his nature to insult.
Dr. Slop's presence at that time, was no less problematical than the mode of it; tho' it is certain, one moment's reflexion in my father might have solved it; for he had apprized Dr. Slop but the week before, that my mother was at her full reckoning; and as the doctor had heard nothing since, 'twas natural and very political too in him, to have taken a ride to Shandy-Hall, as he did, merely to see how matters went on.
But my father's mind took unfortunately a wrong turn in the investigation; running, like the hypercritick's, altogether upon the ringing of the bell and the rap upon the door,—measuring their distance, and keeping his mind so intent upon the operation, as to have power to think of nothing else,—common-place infirmity of the greatest mathematicians! working with might and main at the demonstration, and so wasting all their strength upon it, that they have none left in them to draw the corollary, to do good with.
The ringing of the bell, and the rap upon the door, struck likewise strong upon the sensorium of my uncle Toby,—but it excited a very different train of thoughts;—the two irreconcileable pulsations instantly brought Stevinus, the great engineer, along with them, into my uncle Toby's mind. What business Stevinus had in this affair,—is the greatest problem of all:—It shall be solved,—but not in the next chapter.