Chapter 4.LXX.

—'Now What Can Their Two Noddles Be About?' Cried My Father...&C....

I dare say, said my mother, they are making fortifications—

—Not on Mrs. Wadman's premises! cried my father, stepping back—

I suppose not: quoth my mother.

I wish, said my father, raising his voice, the whole science of fortification at the devil, with all its trumpery of saps, mines, blinds, gabions, fausse-brays and cuvetts—

—They are foolish things—said my mother.

Now she had a way, which, by the bye, I would this moment give away my purple jerkin, and my yellow slippers into the bargain, if some of your reverences would imitate—and that was, never to refuse her assent and consent to any proposition my father laid before her, merely because she did not understand it, or had no ideas of the principal word or term of art, upon which the tenet or proposition rolled. She contented herself with doing all that her godfathers and godmothers promised for her—but no more; and so would go on using a hard word twenty years together—and replying to it too, if it was a verb, in all its moods and tenses, without giving herself any trouble to enquire about it.

This was an eternal source of misery to my father, and broke the neck, at the first setting out, of more good dialogues between them, than could have done the most petulant contradiction—the few which survived were the better for the cuvetts—

—'They are foolish things;' said my mother.

—Particularly the cuvetts; replied my father.

'Tis enough—he tasted the sweet of triumph—and went on.

—Not that they are, properly speaking, Mrs. Wadman's premises, said my father, partly correcting himself—because she is but tenant for life—

—That makes a great difference—said my mother—

—In a fool's head, replied my father—

Unless she should happen to have a child—said my mother—

—But she must persuade my brother Toby first to get her one—

To be sure, Mr. Shandy, quoth my mother.

—Though if it comes to persuasion—said my father—Lord have mercy upon them.

Amen: said my mother, piano.

Amen: cried my father, fortissime.

Amen: said my mother again—but with such a sighing cadence of personal pity at the end of it, as discomfited every fibre about my father—he instantly took out his almanack; but before he could untie it, Yorick's congregation coming out of church, became a full answer to one half of his business with it—and my mother telling him it was a sacrament day—left him as little in doubt, as to the other part—He put his almanack into his pocket.

The first Lord of the Treasury thinking of ways and means, could not have returned home with a more embarrassed look.