Tristram Shandy

Full Text

Chapter 4.VIII.

Full Text Chapter 4.VIII.

Chapter 4.VIII.

—All you need say of Fontainbleau (in case you are ask'd) is, that it stands about forty miles (south something) from Paris, in the middle of a large forest—That there is something great in it—That the king goes there once every two or three years, with his whole court, for the pleasure of the chace—and that, during that carnival of sporting, any English gentleman of fashion (you need not forget yourself) may be accommodated with a nag or two, to partake of the sport, taking care only not to out-gallop the king—

Though there are two reasons why you need not talk loud of this to every one.

First, Because 'twill make the said nags the harder to be got; and

Secondly, 'Tis not a word of it true.—Allons!

As for Sens—you may dispatch—in a word—''Tis an archiepiscopal see.'

—For Joigny—the less, I think, one says of it the better.

But for Auxerre—I could go on for ever: for in my grand tour through Europe, in which, after all, my father (not caring to trust me with any one) attended me himself, with my uncle Toby, and Trim, and Obadiah, and indeed most of the family, except my mother, who being taken up with a project of knitting my father a pair of large worsted breeches—(the thing is common sense)—and she not caring to be put out of her way, she staid at home, at Shandy Hall, to keep things right during the expedition; in which, I say, my father stopping us two days at Auxerre, and his researches being ever of such a nature, that they would have found fruit even in a desert—he has left me enough to say upon Auxerre: in short, wherever my father went—but 'twas more remarkably so, in this journey through France and Italy, than in any other stages of his life—his road seemed to lie so much on one side of that, wherein all other travellers have gone before him—he saw kings and courts and silks of all colours, in such strange lights—and his remarks and reasonings upon the characters, the manners, and customs of the countries we pass'd over, were so opposite to those of all other mortal men, particularly those of my uncle Toby and Trim—(to say nothing of myself)—and to crown all—the occurrences and scrapes which we were perpetually meeting and getting into, in consequence of his systems and opiniotry—they were of so odd, so mix'd and tragi-comical a contexture—That the whole put together, it appears of so different a shade and tint from any tour of Europe, which was ever executed—that I will venture to pronounce—the fault must be mine and mine only—if it be not read by all travellers and travel-readers, till travelling is no more,—or which comes to the same point—till the world, finally, takes it into its head to stand still.—

—But this rich bale is not to be open'd now; except a small thread or two of it, merely to unravel the mystery of my father's stay at Auxerre.

—As I have mentioned it—'tis too slight to be kept suspended; and when 'tis wove in, there is an end of it.

We'll go, brother Toby, said my father, whilst dinner is coddling—to the abbey of Saint Germain, if it be only to see these bodies, of which Monsieur Sequier has given such a recommendation.—I'll go see any body, quoth my uncle Toby; for he was all compliance through every step of the journey—Defend me! said my father—they are all mummies—Then one need not shave; quoth my uncle Toby—Shave! no—cried my father—'twill be more like relations to go with our beards on—So out we sallied, the corporal lending his master his arm, and bringing up the rear, to the abbey of Saint Germain.

Every thing is very fine, and very rich, and very superb, and very magnificent, said my father, addressing himself to the sacristan, who was a younger brother of the order of Benedictines—but our curiosity has led us to see the bodies, of which Monsieur Sequier has given the world so exact a description.—The sacristan made a bow, and lighting a torch first, which he had always in the vestry ready for the purpose; he led us into the tomb of St. Heribald—This, said the sacristan, laying his hand upon the tomb, was a renowned prince of the house of Bavaria, who under the successive reigns of Charlemagne, Louis le Debonnair, and Charles the Bald, bore a great sway in the government, and had a principal hand in bringing every thing into order and discipline—

Then he has been as great, said my uncle, in the field, as in the cabinet—I dare say he has been a gallant soldier—He was a monk—said the sacristan.

My uncle Toby and Trim sought comfort in each other's faces—but found it not: my father clapped both his hands upon his cod-piece, which was a way he had when any thing hugely tickled him: for though he hated a monk and the very smell of a monk worse than all the devils in hell—yet the shot hitting my uncle Toby and Trim so much harder than him, 'twas a relative triumph; and put him into the gayest humour in the world.

—And pray what do you call this gentleman? quoth my father, rather sportingly: This tomb, said the young Benedictine, looking downwards, contains the bones of Saint Maxima, who came from Ravenna on purpose to touch the body—

—Of Saint Maximus, said my father, popping in with his saint before him,—they were two of the greatest saints in the whole martyrology, added my father—Excuse me, said the sacristan—'twas to touch the bones of Saint Germain, the builder of the abbey—And what did she get by it? said my uncle Toby—What does any woman get by it? said my father—Martyrdome; replied the young Benedictine, making a bow down to the ground, and uttering the word with so humble, but decisive a cadence, it disarmed my father for a moment. 'Tis supposed, continued the Benedictine, that St. Maxima has lain in this tomb four hundred years, and two hundred before her canonization—'Tis but a slow rise, brother Toby, quoth my father, in this self-same army of martyrs.—A desperate slow one, an' please your honour, said Trim, unless one could purchase—I should rather sell out entirely, quoth my uncle Toby—I am pretty much of your opinion, brother Toby, said my father.

—Poor St. Maxima! said my uncle Toby low to himself, as we turn'd from her tomb: She was one of the fairest and most beautiful ladies either of Italy or France, continued the sacristan—But who the duce has got lain down here, besides her? quoth my father, pointing with his cane to a large tomb as we walked on—It is Saint Optat, Sir, answered the sacristan—And properly is Saint Optat plac'd! said my father: And what is Saint Optat's story? continued he. Saint Optat, replied the sacristan, was a bishop—

—I thought so, by heaven! cried my father, interrupting him—Saint Optat!—how should Saint Optat fail? so snatching out his pocket-book, and the young Benedictine holding him the torch as he wrote, he set it down as a new prop to his system of Christian names, and I will be bold to say, so disinterested was he in the search of truth, that had he found a treasure in Saint Optat's tomb, it would not have made him half so rich: 'Twas as successful a short visit as ever was paid to the dead; and so highly was his fancy pleas'd with all that had passed in it,—that he determined at once to stay another day in Auxerre.

—I'll see the rest of these good gentry to-morrow, said my father, as we cross'd over the square—And while you are paying that visit, brother Shandy, quoth my uncle Toby—the corporal and I will mount the ramparts.