Tristram Shandy

Full Text

Chapter 2.XVII.

Full Text Chapter 2.XVII.

Chapter 2.XVII.

Tho' the shock my uncle Toby received the year after the demolition of Dunkirk, in his affair with widow Wadman, had fixed him in a resolution never more to think of the sex—or of aught which belonged to it;—yet corporal Trim had made no such bargain with himself. Indeed in my uncle Toby's case there was a strange and unaccountable concurrence of circumstances, which insensibly drew him in, to lay siege to that fair and strong citadel.—In Trim's case there was a concurrence of nothing in the world, but of him and Bridget in the kitchen;—though in truth, the love and veneration he bore his master was such, and so fond was he of imitating him in all he did, that had my uncle Toby employed his time and genius in tagging of points—I am persuaded the honest corporal would have laid down his arms, and followed his example with pleasure. When therefore my uncle Toby sat down before the mistress—corporal Trim incontinently took ground before the maid.

Now, my dear friend Garrick, whom I have so much cause to esteem and honour—(why, or wherefore, 'tis no matter)—can it escape your penetration—I defy it—that so many play-wrights, and opificers of chit-chat have ever since been working upon Trim's and my uncle Toby's pattern.—I care not what Aristotle, or Pacuvius, or Bossu, or Ricaboni say—(though I never read one of them)—there is not a greater difference between a single-horse chair and madam Pompadour's vis-a-vis; than betwixt a single amour, and an amour thus nobly doubled, and going upon all four, prancing throughout a grand drama—Sir, a simple, single, silly affair of that kind—is quite lost in five acts—but that is neither here nor there.

After a series of attacks and repulses in a course of nine months on my uncle Toby's quarter, a most minute account of every particular of which shall be given in its proper place, my uncle Toby, honest man! found it necessary to draw off his forces and raise the siege somewhat indignantly.

Corporal Trim, as I said, had made no such bargain either with himself—or with any one else—the fidelity however of his heart not suffering him to go into a house which his master had forsaken with disgust—he contented himself with turning his part of the siege into a blockade;—that is, he kept others off;—for though he never after went to the house, yet he never met Bridget in the village, but he would either nod or wink, or smile, or look kindly at her—or (as circumstances directed) he would shake her by the hand—or ask her lovingly how she did—or would give her a ribbon—and now-and-then, though never but when it could be done with decorum, would give Bridget a...—

Precisely in this situation, did these things stand for five years; that is from the demolition of Dunkirk in the year 13, to the latter end of my uncle Toby's campaign in the year 18, which was about six or seven weeks before the time I'm speaking of.—When Trim, as his custom was, after he had put my uncle Toby to bed, going down one moon-shiny night to see that every thing was right at his fortifications—in the lane separated from the bowling-green with flowering shrubs and holly—he espied his Bridget.

As the corporal thought there was nothing in the world so well worth shewing as the glorious works which he and my uncle Toby had made, Trim courteously and gallantly took her by the hand, and led her in: this was not done so privately, but that the foul-mouth'd trumpet of Fame carried it from ear to ear, till at length it reach'd my father's, with this untoward circumstance along with it, that my uncle Toby's curious draw-bridge, constructed and painted after the Dutch fashion, and which went quite across the ditch—was broke down, and somehow or other crushed all to pieces that very night.

My father, as you have observed, had no great esteem for my uncle Toby's hobby-horse; he thought it the most ridiculous horse that ever gentleman mounted; and indeed unless my uncle Toby vexed him about it, could never think of it once, without smiling at it—so that it could never get lame or happen any mischance, but it tickled my father's imagination beyond measure; but this being an accident much more to his humour than any one which had yet befall'n it, it proved an inexhaustible fund of entertainment to him—Well—but dear Toby! my father would say, do tell me seriously how this affair of the bridge happened.—How can you teaze me so much about it? my uncle Toby would reply—I have told it you twenty times, word for word as Trim told it me.—Prithee, how was it then, corporal? my father would cry, turning to Trim.—It was a mere misfortune, an' please your honour;—I was shewing Mrs. Bridget our fortifications, and in going too near the edge of the fosse, I unfortunately slipp'd in—Very well, Trim! my father would cry—(smiling mysteriously, and giving a nod—but without interrupting him)—and being link'd fast, an' please your honour, arm in arm with Mrs. Bridget, I dragg'd her after me, by means of which she fell backwards soss against the bridge—and Trim's foot (my uncle Toby would cry, taking the story out of his mouth) getting into the cuvette, he tumbled full against the bridge too.—It was a thousand to one, my uncle Toby would add, that the poor fellow did not break his leg.—Ay truly, my father would say—a limb is soon broke, brother Toby, in such encounters.—And so, an' please your honour, the bridge, which your honour knows was a very slight one, was broke down betwixt us, and splintered all to pieces.

At other times, but especially when my uncle Toby was so unfortunate as to say a syllable about cannons, bombs, or petards—my father would exhaust all the stores of his eloquence (which indeed were very great) in a panegyric upon the Battering-Rams of the ancients—the Vinea which Alexander made use of at the siege of Troy.—He would tell my uncle Toby of the Catapultae of the Syrians, which threw such monstrous stones so many hundred feet, and shook the strongest bulwarks from their very foundation:—he would go on and describe the wonderful mechanism of the Ballista which Marcellinus makes so much rout about!—the terrible effects of the Pyraboli, which cast fire;—the danger of the Terebra and Scorpio, which cast javelins.—But what are these, would he say, to the destructive machinery of corporal Trim?—Believe me, brother Toby, no bridge, or bastion, or sally-port, that ever was constructed in this world, can hold out against such artillery.

My uncle Toby would never attempt any defence against the force of this ridicule, but that of redoubling the vehemence of smoaking his pipe; in doing which, he raised so dense a vapour one night after supper, that it set my father, who was a little phthisical, into a suffocating fit of violent coughing: my uncle Toby leap'd up without feeling the pain upon his groin—and, with infinite pity, stood beside his brother's chair, tapping his back with one hand, and holding his head with the other, and from time to time wiping his eyes with a clean cambrick handkerchief, which he pulled out of his pocket.—The affectionate and endearing manner in which my uncle Toby did these little offices—cut my father thro' his reins, for the pain he had just been giving him.—May my brains be knock'd out with a battering-ram or a catapulta, I care not which, quoth my father to himself—if ever I insult this worthy soul more!