Chapter 2.XVI.

All is quiet and hush, cried my father, at least above stairs—I hear not one foot stirring.—Prithee Trim, who's in the kitchen? There is no one soul in the kitchen, answered Trim, making a low bow as he spoke, except Dr. Slop.—Confusion! cried my father (getting upon his legs a second time)—not one single thing has gone right this day! had I faith in astrology, brother, (which, by the bye, my father had) I would have sworn some retrograde planet was hanging over this unfortunate house of mine, and turning every individual thing in it out of its place.—Why, I thought Dr. Slop had been above stairs with my wife, and so said you.—What can the fellow be puzzling about in the kitchen!—He is busy, an' please your honour, replied Trim, in making a bridge.—'Tis very obliging in him, quoth my uncle Toby:—pray, give my humble service to Dr. Slop, Trim, and tell him I thank him heartily.

You must know, my uncle Toby mistook the bridge—as widely as my father mistook the mortars:—but to understand how my uncle Toby could mistake the bridge—I fear I must give you an exact account of the road which led to it;—or to drop my metaphor (for there is nothing more dishonest in an historian than the use of one)—in order to conceive the probability of this error in my uncle Toby aright, I must give you some account of an adventure of Trim's, though much against my will, I say much against my will, only because the story, in one sense, is certainly out of its place here; for by right it should come in, either amongst the anecdotes of my uncle Toby's amours with widow Wadman, in which corporal Trim was no mean actor—or else in the middle of his and my uncle Toby's campaigns on the bowling-green—for it will do very well in either place;—but then if I reserve it for either of those parts of my story—I ruin the story I'm upon;—and if I tell it here—I anticipate matters, and ruin it there.

—What would your worship have me to do in this case?

—Tell it, Mr. Shandy, by all means.—You are a fool, Tristram, if you do.

O ye powers! (for powers ye are, and great ones too)—which enable mortal man to tell a story worth the hearing—that kindly shew him, where he is to begin it—and where he is to end it—what he is to put into it—and what he is to leave out—how much of it he is to cast into a shade—and whereabouts he is to throw his light!—Ye, who preside over this vast empire of biographical freebooters, and see how many scrapes and plunges your subjects hourly fall into;—will you do one thing?

I beg and beseech you (in case you will do nothing better for us) that wherever in any part of your dominions it so falls out, that three several roads meet in one point, as they have done just here—that at least you set up a guide-post in the centre of them, in mere charity, to direct an uncertain devil which of the three he is to take.