When we have got to the end of this chapter (but not before) we must all turn back to the two blank chapters, on the account of which my honour has lain bleeding this half hour—I stop it, by pulling off one of my yellow slippers and throwing it with all my violence to the opposite side of my room, with a declaration at the heel of it—
—That whatever resemblance it may bear to half the chapters which are written in the world, or for aught I know may be now writing in it—that it was as casual as the foam of Zeuxis his horse; besides, I look upon a chapter which has only nothing in it, with respect; and considering what worse things there are in the world—That it is no way a proper subject for satire—
—Why then was it left so? And here without staying for my reply, shall I be called as many blockheads, numsculs, doddypoles, dunderheads, ninny-hammers, goosecaps, joltheads, nincompoops, and sh..t-a-beds—and other unsavoury appellations, as ever the cake-bakers of Lerne cast in the teeth of King Garangantan's shepherds—And I'll let them do it, as Bridget said, as much as they please; for how was it possible they should foresee the necessity I was under of writing the 84th chapter of my book, before the 77th, &c?
—So I don't take it amiss—All I wish is, that it may be a lesson to the world, 'to let people tell their stories their own way.'
The Seventy-seventh Chapter.
As Mrs. Bridget opened the door before the corporal had well given the rap, the interval betwixt that and my uncle Toby's introduction into the parlour, was so short, that Mrs. Wadman had but just time to get from behind the curtain—lay a Bible upon the table, and advance a step or two towards the door to receive him.
My uncle Toby saluted Mrs. Wadman, after the manner in which women were saluted by men in the year of our Lord God one thousand seven hundred and thirteen—then facing about, he march'd up abreast with her to the sopha, and in three plain words—though not before he was sat down—nor after he was sat down—but as he was sitting down, told her, 'he was in love'—so that my uncle Toby strained himself more in the declaration than he needed.
Mrs. Wadman naturally looked down, upon a slit she had been darning up in her apron, in expectation every moment, that my uncle Toby would go on; but having no talents for amplification, and Love moreover of all others being a subject of which he was the least a master—When he had told Mrs. Wadman once that he loved her, he let it alone, and left the matter to work after its own way.
My father was always in raptures with this system of my uncle Toby's, as he falsely called it, and would often say, that could his brother Toby to his processe have added but a pipe of tobacco—he had wherewithal to have found his way, if there was faith in a Spanish proverb, towards the hearts of half the women upon the globe.
My uncle Toby never understood what my father meant; nor will I presume to extract more from it, than a condemnation of an error which the bulk of the world lie under—but the French, every one of 'em to a man, who believe in it, almost as much as the Real Presence, 'That talking of love, is making it.'
—I would as soon set about making a black-pudding by the same receipt.
Let us go on: Mrs. Wadman sat in expectation my uncle Toby would do so, to almost the first pulsation of that minute, wherein silence on one side or the other, generally becomes indecent: so edging herself a little more towards him, and raising up her eyes, sub blushing, as she did it—she took up the gauntlet—or the discourse (if you like it better) and communed with my uncle Toby, thus:
The cares and disquietudes of the marriage state, quoth Mrs. Wadman, are very great. I suppose so—said my uncle Toby: and therefore when a person, continued Mrs. Wadman, is so much at his ease as you are—so happy, captain Shandy, in yourself, your friends and your amusements—I wonder, what reasons can incline you to the state—
—They are written, quoth my uncle Toby, in the Common-Prayer Book.
Thus far my uncle Toby went on warily, and kept within his depth, leaving Mrs. Wadman to sail upon the gulph as she pleased.
—As for children—said Mrs. Wadman—though a principal end perhaps of the institution, and the natural wish, I suppose, of every parent—yet do not we all find, they are certain sorrows, and very uncertain comforts? and what is there, dear sir, to pay one for the heart-achs—what compensation for the many tender and disquieting apprehensions of a suffering and defenceless mother who brings them into life? I declare, said my uncle Toby, smit with pity, I know of none; unless it be the pleasure which it has pleased God—
A fiddlestick! quoth she.
Now there are such an infinitude of notes, tunes, cants, chants, airs, looks, and accents with which the word fiddlestick may be pronounced in all such causes as this, every one of 'em impressing a sense and meaning as different from the other, as dirt from cleanliness—That Casuists (for it is an affair of conscience on that score) reckon up no less than fourteen thousand in which you may do either right or wrong.
Mrs. Wadman hit upon the fiddlestick, which summoned up all my uncle Toby's modest blood into his cheeks—so feeling within himself that he had somehow or other got beyond his depth, he stopt short; and without entering further either into the pains or pleasures of matrimony, he laid his hand upon his heart, and made an offer to take them as they were, and share them along with her.
When my uncle Toby had said this, he did not care to say it again; so casting his eye upon the Bible which Mrs. Wadman had laid upon the table, he took it up; and popping, dear soul! upon a passage in it, of all others the most interesting to him—which was the siege of Jericho—he set himself to read it over—leaving his proposal of marriage, as he had done his declaration of love, to work with her after its own way. Now it wrought neither as an astringent or a loosener; nor like opium, or bark, or mercury, or buckthorn, or any one drug which nature had bestowed upon the world—in short, it work'd not at all in her; and the cause of that was, that there was something working there before—Babbler that I am! I have anticipated what it was a dozen times; but there is fire still in the subject—allons.