When my father received the letter which brought him the melancholy account of my brother Bobby's death, he was busy calculating the expence of his riding post from Calais to Paris, and so on to Lyons.
'Twas a most inauspicious journey; my father having had every foot of it to travel over again, and his calculation to begin afresh, when he had almost got to the end of it, by Obadiah's opening the door to acquaint him the family was out of yeast—and to ask whether he might not take the great coach-horse early in the morning and ride in search of some.—With all my heart, Obadiah, said my father (pursuing his journey)—take the coach-horse, and welcome.—But he wants a shoe, poor creature! said Obadiah.—Poor creature! said my uncle Toby, vibrating the note back again, like a string in unison. Then ride the Scotch horse, quoth my father hastily.—He cannot bear a saddle upon his back, quoth Obadiah, for the whole world.—The devil's in that horse; then take Patriot, cried my father, and shut the door.—Patriot is sold, said Obadiah. Here's for you! cried my father, making a pause, and looking in my uncle Toby's face, as if the thing had not been a matter of fact.—Your worship ordered me to sell him last April, said Obadiah.—Then go on foot for your pains, cried my father—I had much rather walk than ride, said Obadiah, shutting the door.
What plagues, cried my father, going on with his calculation.—But the waters are out, said Obadiah,—opening the door again.
Till that moment, my father, who had a map of Sanson's, and a book of the post-roads before him, had kept his hand upon the head of his compasses, with one foot of them fixed upon Nevers, the last stage he had paid for—purposing to go on from that point with his journey and calculation, as soon as Obadiah quitted the room: but this second attack of Obadiah's, in opening the door and laying the whole country under water, was too much.—He let go his compasses—or rather with a mixed motion between accident and anger, he threw them upon the table; and then there was nothing for him to do, but to return back to Calais (like many others) as wise as he had set out.
When the letter was brought into the parlour, which contained the news of my brother's death, my father had got forwards again upon his journey to within a stride of the compasses of the very same stage of Nevers.—By your leave, Mons. Sanson, cried my father, striking the point of his compasses through Nevers into the table—and nodding to my uncle Toby to see what was in the letter—twice of one night, is too much for an English gentleman and his son, Mons. Sanson, to be turned back from so lousy a town as Nevers—What think'st thou, Toby? added my father in a sprightly tone.—Unless it be a garrison town, said my uncle Toby—for then—I shall be a fool, said my father, smiling to himself, as long as I live.—So giving a second nod—and keeping his compasses still upon Nevers with one hand, and holding his book of the post-roads in the other—half calculating and half listening, he leaned forwards upon the table with both elbows, as my uncle Toby hummed over the letter.
...he's gone! said my uncle Toby—Where—Who? cried my father.—My nephew, said my uncle Toby.—What—without leave—without money—without governor? cried my father in amazement. No:—he is dead, my dear brother, quoth my uncle Toby.—Without being ill? cried my father again.—I dare say not, said my uncle Toby, in a low voice, and fetching a deep sigh from the bottom of his heart, he has been ill enough, poor lad! I'll answer for him—for he is dead.
When Agrippina was told of her son's death, Tacitus informs us, that, not being able to moderate the violence of her passions, she abruptly broke off her work—My father stuck his compasses into Nevers, but so much the faster.—What contrarieties! his, indeed, was matter of calculation!—Agrippina's must have been quite a different affair; who else could pretend to reason from history?
How my father went on, in my opinion, deserves a chapter to itself.—