[The novel is written in nine volumes, but Tristram is not born until Volume IV and, having grown old enough to be put into breeches (Vol. VI) he disappears from the narrative.
One can expect to find reference to almost anything in the garrulous talk that always accompanies the eccentricities of Tristram's father living at Shandy Hall, his uncle Toby who had been wounded at the siege of Namur, and Corporal Trim.]
If the reader has not a clear conception of the rood and the half of ground which lay at the bottom of my uncle Toby's kitchen-garden, and which was the scene of so many of his delicious hours—and fault is not in me—but in his imagination—for I am sure I gave him so minute a description I was almost ashamed of it.
When Fate was looking forwards one afternoon into the great transactions of future times—and recollected for what purposes this little plot, by a decree fast bound down in iron, had been destined—she gave a nod to Nature—'twas enough—Nature threw half a spade full of her kindliest compost upon it, with just so much clay in it as to retain the forms of angles and indentings—and so little of it too as not to cling to the spade, and render works of so much glory nasty in foul weather.
My uncle Toby came down, as the reader has been informed, with plans along with him of almost every fortified town in Italy and Flanders; so let the Duke of Marlborough or the Allies have set down before what town they pleased, my uncle Toby was prepared for them.
His way, which was the simplest one in the world, was this: as soon as ever a town was invested—(but sooner when the design was known) to take the plan of it (let it (' be what town it would), and enlarge it upon a scale to the exact size of his bowling-green; upon the surface of which, by means of a large roll of pack-thread, and a number of I small pickets driven into the ground at the several angles and redans, he transferred the lines from his paper; then taking the profile of the plac~ with its works, to determine the depths and slopes of the ditches—the talus of the glacis, and the precise height of the several banquettes, parapets, etc—he set the corporal to work—and sweetly went it on: the nature of the soil—the nature of the work itself—and above all, the good-nature of my uncle Toby sitting by from morning to night, and chatting kindly with the corporal upon past—done deeds—left labour little else but the ceremony of the name.
When the place was finished in this manner and put into a proper posture of defence—it was invested—and my uncle Toby and the corporal began to run their first parallel. I beg I may not be interrupted in my story, by being told that the first parallel should be at least three hundred toises distant from the main body of the place and that I have not left a single inch for it—for my uncle Toby took the liberty of encroaching upon his kitchen garden for the sake of enlarging his work on the bowling green, and for that reason generally ran his first and second parallels betwixt two rows of his cabbages and his cauliflowers; the conveniences and the inconveniences of which will be considered at large in the history of my uncle Toby's and the corporal's campaigns, of which this I'm now writing is but a sketch and will be finished, if I conjecture right, in three pages (but there is no guessing).The campaigns themselves will take up as many books; and therefore I apprehend it would be hanging too great a weight of one kind of matter in so flimsy a performance as this to rhapsodize them, as I once intended, into the body of the work—surely they had better be printed apart —we'll consider the affair—so take the following sketch of them in the mean time.
* * * * *
When the town with its works was finished, my uncle Toby and the corporal began to run their first parallel— not at random or any how—but from the same points and distances the Allies had begun to run theirs; and regulating their approaches and attacks by the accounts my uncle Toby received from the daily papers—they went on, during the whole siege, step by step with the Allies.
When the Duke of Marlborough made a lodgment —my uncle Toby made a lodgment too—and when the face of a bastion was battered down or a defence ruined—the corporal took his mattock and did as much—and so on gaining ground, and making themselves masters of the works one after another till the town fell into their hands.
To one who took pleasure in the happy state of others —there could not have been a greater sight in the world than, on a post-morning, in which a practicable breach had been made by the Duke of Marlborough in the main body of the place—to have stood behind the horn-beam hedge and observed the spirit with which my uncle Toby, with Trim behind him, sallied forth—the one with the Gazette in his hand—the other with a spade on his shoulder to execute the contents. What an honest triumph in my uncle Toby's looks as he marched up to the ramparts! What intense pleasure swimming in his eye as he stood over the corporal, reading the paragraph ten times over to him as he was at work, peradventure he should make the breach an inch too wide——or leave it an inch too narrow. But when the chamade was beat, and the corporal helped my uncle up it and followed with the colours in his hand to fix them upon the ramparts — Heaven! Earth! Sea !—but what avails apostrophes? with all your elements, wet or dry, ye never compounded so intoxicating a draught.
In this track of happiness for many years, without one interruption to it, except now and then when the wind continued to blow due west for a week or ten days together, which detained the Flanders mail and kept them so long in torture—but still 'twas the torture of the happy. In this track, I say, did my uncle Toby and Trim move for many years, every year of which, and sometimes every month, from the invention of either the one or the other of them, adding some new conceit or quirk of improvement to their operations, which always opened fresh springs of delight in carrying them on.
The first year's campaign was carried on from beginning to end in the plain and simple method I've related.
In the second year, in which my uncle Toby took Liège and Ruremond, he thought he might afford the expense of four handsome drawbridges, of two of which I have given an exact description in the former part of my work.
At the latter end of the same years he added a couple of gates with portcullises. These last were converted afterwards into orgues, as the better thing; and during the winter of the same year, my uncle Toby, instead of a new suit of clothes which he always had at Christmas, treated himself with a handsome sentry-box to stand at the comer of the bowling-green, betwixt which point and the foot of the glacis there was left a little kind of an esplanade for him and the corporal to confer and hold councils of war upon.
The sentry-box was in case of rain.
All these were painted white three times over the ensuing Spring, which enabled my uncle Toby to take the field with great splendour.
My father would often say to Yorick that if any mortal in the whole universe had done such a thing, except his brother Toby, it would have been looked upon by the world as one of the most refined satires upon the parade and prancing manner in which Louis XIV from the beginning of the war, but particularly that very year, had taken the field. 'But 'tis not my brother Toby's nature, kind soul,' my father would add, 'to insult anyone.'
But let us go on.
* * * * *
I must observe that, although in the first year's campaign the word town is often mentioned—yet there was no town at that time within the polygon; that addition was not made till the Summer following the Spring in which the bridges and sentry-box were painted, which was the third year of my uncle Toby's campaigns—when upon his taking Amberg, Bonn, and Rhinberg, and Huy and Limbourg one after another, a thought came into the corporal's head that to talk of taking so many towns, without one town to show for it—was a very nonsensical way of going to work, and so proposed to my uncle Toby that they should have a little model of a. town built for them—to be run up together of slit deals and then painted, and clapped within the interior polygon to serve for all.
My uncle Toby felt the good of the project instantly and instantly agreed to it, but with the addition of two singular improvements, of which he was almost as proud as if he had been the original inventor of the project himself.
The one was to have the town built exactly in the style of those of which it was most likely to be the representative—with grated windows, and the gable ends of the houses facing the streets, etc. etc.—as those in Ghent and Bruges and the rest of the towns in Brabant and Flanders.
The other was not to have the houses run up together, as the corporal proposed, but to have every house independent, to hook on or off so as to form into the plan of whatever town they pleased. This was put directly into hand, and many and many a look of mutual congratulation was exchanged between my uncle Toby and the corporal as the carpenter did the work.
It answered prodigiously the next summer—the town was a perfect Proteus. It was Landen and Trerebach and Santvliet and Drusen and Hagenau—and then it was Ostend and Menin and Aeth and Dendermond.
Surely never did any town act so many parts, since Sodom and Gomorrah, as my uncle Toby's town did.
In the fourth year my uncle Toby, thinking a town looked foolishly without a church, added a very fine one with a steeple. Trim was for having bells in it; my uncle Toby said the metal had better be cast into cannon.
This led the way the next campaign for half a dozen brass field-pieces to be planted three and three on each side of my uncle Toby's sentry-box; and in a short time these led the way for a train of somewhat larger—and so on—(as must always be the case in hobby-horsical affairs) from pieces of half an inch bore till it came at last to my father's jack-boots.
The next year, which was that in which Lisle was besieged, and at the close of which both Ghent and Bruges fell into our hands—my uncle Toby was sadly put to it for proper ammunition;—I say proper ammunition—because his great artillery would not bear powder; and 'twas well for the Shandy family they would not for so full were the papers from the beginning to the end of the siege of the incessant firings kept up by the besiegers—and so heated was my uncle Toby's imagination with the accounts of them that he had infallibly shot away all his estate.
Something therefore was wanting as a succedaneum, especially in one or two of the more violent paroxysms of the siege, to keep up something like a continual firing in the imagination—and this something the corporal, whose principal strength lay in invention, supplied by an entire new system of battering of his own—without which, this had been objected to by military critics to the end of the world as one of the great desiderata of my uncle Toby's apparatus.
This will not be explained the worse for setting off, as I generally do, at a little distance from the subject.
* * * * *
With two or three other trinkets, small in themselves but of great regard, which poor Tom, the corporal's unfortunate brother, had sent him over with the account of his marriage with the Jew's widow—there was A Montero-cap and two Turkish tobacco-pipes.
The Montero-cap I shall describe by and by. The Turkish tobacco-pipes had nothing particular in them;they were fitted up and ornamented as usual, with flexible tubes of Morocco leather and gold wire, and mounted at their ends, the one of them with ivory—the other with black ebony tipped with silver. My father, who saw all things in lights different from the rest of the world, would say to the corporal that he ought to look upon these two presents more as tokens of his brother's nicety than his affection. 'Tom did not care, Trim,' he would say, 'to put on the cap, or to smoke in the tobacco-pipe of a Jew.' 'God bless your honour,' the corporal would say (giving a strong reason to the contrary), 'how can that be?' The Montero-cap was scarlet, of a superfine Spanish cloth dyed in grain and mounted all round with fur, except about four inches in the front, which was faced with a light blue slightly embroidered—and seemed to have been the property of a Portuguese quartermaster, not of foot but of horse, as the word denotes.
The corporal was not a little proud of it, as well for its own sake as the sake of the giver, so seldom or never put it on but upon gala days; and yet never was a Monterocap put to so many uses; for in all controverted points, whether military or culinary, provided the corporal was sure he was in the right—it was either his oath—his wager —or his gift.
'Twas his gift in the present case.
'I'll be bound,' said the corporal, speaking to himself, 'to give away my Montero-cap to the first beggar who comes to the door, if I do not manage this matter ~o his honour's satisfaction.' The completion was no further off than the very next morning, which was that of the storm of the counterscarp betwixt the Lower Deule, to the right, and the gate St. Andrew—and on the left, between St. Magdalen's and the river.
As this was the most memorable attack in the whole war—the most gallant and obstinate on both sides—and I must add the most bloody too, for it cost the Allies themselves that morning above eleven hundred men—my uncle Toby prepared himself for it with a more than ordinary solemnity.
The eve which preceded, as my uncle Toby went to bed, he ordered his ramillie wig, which had laid inside out for many years in the comer of an old campaigning trunk which stood by his bedside, to be taken out and laid upon the lid of it, ready for the morning; and the very first thing he did in his shirt, when he had stepped out of bed, my uncle Toby, after he had turned the rough side outwards——put it on. This done, he proceeded next to his breeches, and having buttoned the waistband, he forthwith buckled on his sword-belt, and had got his sword half-way in—when he considered he should want shaving —so took it off. In assaying to put on his regimental coat and waistcoat, my uncle Toby found the same objection in his wig—so that went off too. So that what with one thing and what with another, as always falls out when a man is in the most haste—'twas ten o'clock, which was half an hour later than his usual time, before my uncle Toby sallied out.
* * * * *
My uncle Toby had scarce turned the corner of his yew hedge which separated his kitchen-garden from his bowling-green, when he perceived the corporal had begun the attack without him.
Let me stop and give you a picture of the corporal's apparatus and of the corporal himself in the height of his attack, just as it struck my uncle Toby as he turned towards the sentry-box where the corporal was at workfor in nature there is not such another—nor can any combination of all that is grotesque and whimsical in her works produce its equal.
—Tread lightly on his ashes, ye men of genius—for he was your kinsman:
Weed his grave clean, ye men of goodness——for he was your brother.—O corporal! Had I thee but now—now that I am able to give thee a dinner and protection—how would I cherish thee!
The corporal, who the night before had resolved in his mind to supply the grand desideratum of keeping up something like an incessant firing upon the enemy during the heat of the attack—had no further idea in his fancy at that time than a contrivance of smoking tobacco against the town, out of one of my uncle Toby's six fieldpieces which were planted on each side of his sentry-box; the means of effecting which occurring to his fancy at the time same, though he had pledged his cap, he thought it in no danger from the miscarriage of his projects.
Upon turning it this way and that a little in his mind, he soon began to find out that, by means of his two Turkish tobacco-pipes, with the supplement of three smaller tubes of wash-leather at each of their lower ends to be tagged by the same number of tin-pipes fitted to the touch-holes and sealed with clay next the cannon, and then tied hermetically with waxed silk at their several insertions into the Morocco tube—he should be able to fire the six field-pieces all together, and with the same ease as to fire one—
—Let no man say from what tags and jags hints may not be cut out for the advancement of human knowledge. Let no man, who has read my father's first and second beds of justice, ever rise up and say again from collision of what kinds of bodies light may or may not be struck out, to carry the arts and sciences up to perfection —Heaven! Thou knowest how I love them—thou knowest the secrets of my heart, and that I would this moment give my shirt— 'Thou art a fool, Shandy,' says Eugenius, 'for thou hast but a dozen in the world—and 'twill break thy set—'
No matter for that, Eugenius; I would give the shirt off my back to be burned into tinder, were it only to satisfy one feverish inquirer how many sparks at one good stroke a good flint and steel could strike into the tail of it. Think ye not that in striking these in—he might, peradventure, strike something out as sure as a gun?—
—But this project, by the bye.
The corporal sat up the best part of the night in bringing his to perfection; and having made a sufficient proof of his cannon, with charging them to the top with tobacco —he went with contentment to bed.
* * * * *
The corporal had slipped out about ten minutes before my uncle Toby, in order to fix his apparatus and just give the enemy a shot or two before my uncle Toby came.
He had drawn the six field-pieces, for this end, all close up together in front of my uncle Toby's sentrybox, leaving only an interval of about a yard and a half betwixt the three, on the right and left, for the convenience of charging, etc.—and the sake possibly of two batteries, which he might think double the honour of one.
In the rear and facing this opening, with his back to the door of the sentry-box for fear of being flanked, had the corporal wisely taken his post. He held the ivory pipe appertaining to the battery on the right, betwixt the finger and thumb of his right hand—and the ebony pipe tipped with silver, which appertained to the battery on the left, betwixt the finger and thumb of the other—and with his right knee fixed firm upon the ground, as if in the front rank of his platoon, was the corporal with his Monterocap upon his head, furiously playing off his two cross batteries at the same time against the counter-guard which faced the counterscarp, where the attack was to be made that morning. His first intention, as I said, was no more than giving the enemy a single puff or two; but the pleasure of the puffs, as well as the puffing, had insensibly got hold of the corporal and drawn him on from puff to puff into the very height of the attack by the time my uncle Toby joined him.
'Twas well for my father that my uncle Toby had not his will to make that day.
* * * * *
My uncle Toby took the ivory pipe out of the corporal's hand—looked at it for half a minute, and returned it.
In less than two minutes, my uncle Toby took the pipe from the corporal again, and raised it half way to his mouth—then hastily gave it back a second time.
The corporal redoubled the attack—my uncle Toby smiled—then looked grave—then smiled for a moment then looked serious for a long time. 'Give me hold of the ivory pipe, Trim,' said my uncle Toby. My uncle Toby put it to his lips—drew it back directly——gave a peep over the horn-beam hedge—never did my uncle Toby's mouth water so much for a pipe in his life. My uncle Toby retired into the sentry-box with the pipe in his hand.
Dear uncle Toby! Don't go into the sentry-box with the pipe—there's no trusting a man's self with such a thing in such a comer.
[When the war is suspended for a time and the struggle for fortresses ceases, the makebelieve in the garden is reluctantly abandoned. Uncle Toby, as one might expect, delivers a long justification of his principles and conduct in wishing the war to continue. During the armistice, Mrs. Wadman begins her own campaign against Toby.]
'Twill come out of itself by and by. All I contend for is that I am not obliged to set out with a definition of what love is; and so long as I can go on with my story intelligibly, with the help of the word itself, without any other idea to it than what I have in common with the rest of the world, why should I differ from it a moment before the time? When I can get on no further—and find myself entangled on all sides of this mystic labyrinth —my opinion will then come in, in course—and lead me out.
At present, I hope I shall be sufficiently understood in telling the reader my uncle Toby fell in love:
Not that the phrase is at all to my liking: for to say a man is fallen in love—or that he is deeply in love—or up to the ears in love—and sometimes even over head and ears in it—carries an idiomatical kind of implication that love is a thing below a man—this is recurring again to Plato's opinion which, with all his divinityship—I hold to be damnable and heretical—and so much for that.
Let love therefore be what it will—my uncle Toby fell into it.
And possibly, gentle reader, with such a temptation—so wouldst thou.
* * * * *
To conceive this right—call for pen and ink—here's paper ready to your hand. Sit down, sir, paint her to your own mind—as like your mistress as you can—as unlike your wife as your conscience will let you—'tis all one to meplease but your own fancy in it.
* * * A blank page in the work * *
Was ever anything in Nature so sweet I—so exquisite!
Then, dear sir, how could my uncle Toby resist it?
Thrice happy book! Thou wilt have one page at least within thy covers, which Malice will not blacken and which Ignorance cannot misrepresent.
* * * * *
As Susannah was informed by an express from Mrs. Bridget of my uncle Toby's falling in love with her mistress fifteen days before it happened—the contents of which express Susannah communicated to my mother the next day—it has just given me an opportunity of entering upon my uncle Toby's amours a fortnight before their existence.
'I have an article of news to tell you, Mr. Shandy,' quoth my mother, 'which will surprise you greatly.'
Now my father was then holding one of his second beds of justice, and was musing within himself about the hardships of matrimony, as my mother broke silence'—
—My brother Toby,' quoth she, 'is going to be married to Mrs. Wadman.'
'Then he will never,' quoth my father, 'be able to lie diagonally in his bed again as long as he lives.'
It was a consuming vexation to my father that my mother never asked the meaning of a thing she did not understand.
'That she is not a woman of science,' my father would say—'is her misfortune—but she might ask a question—'
My mother never did. In short, she went out of the world at last without knowing whether it turned round or stood still. My father had officially told her about a thousand times which way it was—but she always forgot.
For these, a discourse seldom went on much further betwixt them than a proposition—a reply and a rejoinder; at the end of which it generally took breath for a few minutes and then went on again.
'If he marries, 'twill be the worse for us,' quoth my mother.
'Not a cherry-stone,' said my father—'he may as well batter away his means upon that as any thing else.'
'To be sure,' said my mother: so here ended the proposition—the reply—and the rejoinder I told you of.
'It will be some amusement to him, too,' said my father.
'A very great one,' answered my mother, 'if he should have children.'
'Lord have mercy upon me,' said my father to himself—
* * * * * * * * * * *
[Sterne breaks away completely from the story of Toby and the widow; he devotes all Volume VII to gossiping about adventures while touring France, a survey of Paris, and the comic dilemma of the Abbess of Andouillets. In the following volume he returns to subject of love.
Mrs. Wadman's maid has told Mr. Shandy's maid of the widow's hopes, and so even Toby learns vaguely of the 'state of affairs. However, he gives no thought to it for, after almost eleven years, war is about to recommence. He and Corporal Trim rush back to the garden to resume the game; unfortunately Shandy Hall is empty at the time, and so he has to put up for a few nights at the neighbouring house of Mrs. Wadman.]
Now as widow Wadman did love my uncle Toby—and my uncle Toby did not love widow Wadman, there was nothing for widow Wadman to do but to go on and love my uncle Toby—or let it alone.
Widow Wadman would do neither the one or the other.
Gracious heaven I—but I forgot I am a little of her temper myself; for whenever it so falls out, which it sometimes does about the equinoxes, that an earthly goddess is so much this and that and t'other that I cannot eat my breakfast for her—and that she careth not three halfpence whether I eat my breakfast or no—
Curse on her! and so I send her to Tartary, and from Tartary to Terra del Fuego, and so on to the devil: in short, there is not an infernal niche where I do not take her divinityship and stick it.
But as the heart is tender, and the passions in these tides ebb and flow ten times in a minute, I instantly bring her back again; and as I do all things in extremes, I place her in the very centre of the Milky Way—
Brightest of stars! thou wilt shed thy influence upon some one—
—The deuce take her and her influence too—for at that word I lose all patience—much good may it do him!'By all that is hirsute and gashly!' I cry, taking off my furred cap, and twisting it round my finger—'I would not give sixpence for a dozen such!'
* * * * *
Which shows, let your reverences and worships say what you will of it (for as for thinking—all who do think think pretty much alike both upon it and other matters— love is certainly, at least alphabetically speaking, one of the most
D evilish affairs of life—the most
I racundulous (there is no K to it) and
L yrical of all human passions: at the same time, the most
R idiculous—though by-the-bye, the R should have gone first. But in short 'tis of such a nature, as my father once told my uncle Toby upon the close of a long dissertation upon the subject—'You can scarce,' said he, 'combine two ideas together upon it, brother Toby, without an hypallage.' 'What's that?' cried my uncle Toby. 'The cart before the horse,' replied my father.
'And what is he to do there?' cried my uncle Toby.
'Nothing,' quoth my father, 'but to get in—or let it alone.'
Now widow Wadman, as I told you before, would do neither the one or the other.
She stood, however, ready harnessed and caparisoned at all points to watch accidents.
* * * * *
The Fates, who certainly all foreknew of these amours of widow Wadman and my uncle Toby, had from the first creation of matter and motion (and with more courtesy than they usually do things of this kind) established such a chain of causes and effects hanging so fast to one another that it was scarce possible for my uncle Toby to have dwelt in any other house in the world, or to have occupied any other garden in Christendom but the very house and garden which joined and laid parallel to Mrs. Wadman's; this, with the advantage of a thickset arbour, in Mrs. Wadman's garden but planted in the hedge-row of my uncle Toby's, put all the occasions into her hands which Love—militancy wanted; she could observe my uncle Toby's motions, and was mistress likewise of his councils of war; and as his unsuspecting heart had given leave to the corporal, through the mediation of Bridget, to make her a wicker-gate of communication to enlarge her walks, it enabled her to carry on her approaches to the very door of the sentry-box; and sometimes out of gratitude to make an attack, and endeavour to blow my uncle Toby up in the very sentry-box itself.
* * * * *
And so to make sure of both systems, Mrs. Wadman predetermined to light my uncle Toby neither at this end or that, but, like a prodigal's candle, to light him, if possible at both ends at once.
Now, through all the lumber rooms of military furniture, including both of horse and foot, from the great arsenal of Venice to the Tower of London (exclusive), if Mrs. Wadman had been rummaging for seven years together, and with Bridget to help her, she could not have found anyone blind or mantelet so fit for her purpose as that which the expediency of my uncle Toby's affairs had fixed up ready to her hands.
I believe I have not told you—but I don't know possibly I have—be it as it will, 'tis one of the number of those many things which a man had better do over again than dispute about it—that whatever town or fortress the corporal was at work upon during the course of their campaign, my uncle Toby always took care, on the inside of his sentry-box, which was towards his left hand, to have a plan of the place fastened up with two or three pins at the top but loose at the bottom, for the conveniency of holding it up to the eye, etc. . . . as occasions required; so that when an attack was resolved upon, Mrs. Wadman had nothing more to do, when she had got advanced to the door of the sentry-box, but to extend her right hand; and edging in her left foot at the same movement, to take hold of the map or plan or upright or whatever it was and, with outstretched neck meeting it half way—to advance it towards her; on which my uncle Toby's passions were sure to catch fire—for he would instantly take hold of the other comer of the map in his left hand, and with the end of his pipe in the other, begin an explanation.
When the attack was advanced to this point—the world will naturally enter into the reasons of Mrs. Wadman's next stroke of generalship—which was to take my uncle Toby's tobacco-pipe out of his hand as soon as she possibly could; which, under one pretence or other, but generally that of pointing more distinctly at some or breastwork in the map, she would effect before my uncle Toby (poor soul!) had well marched above half a dozen toises with it.
It obliged my uncle Toby to make use of his forefinger.
The difference it made in the attack was this; that in going upon it, as in the first case, with the end of her forefinger against the end of my uncle Toby's tobacco-pipe, she might have travelled with it along the lines, from Dan to Beersheba, had my uncle Toby's lines reached so far, without any effect: for as there was no arterial or vital heat in the end of the tobacco-pipe, it could excite no sentiment—it could neither give fire by pulsation—or receive it by sympathy—' twas nothing but smoke.
Whereas, in following my uncle Toby's forefinger with hers close thro' all the little turns and indentings of his work—pressing sometimes against the side of it—then treading upon its nail—then tripping it up—then touching it here—then there, and so on—it set something at least in motion.
This, tho' slight skirmishing and at a distance from the main body, yet drew on the rest; for here, the map usually falling with the back of it close to the side of the sentry-box, my uncle Toby, in the simplicity of his soul, would lay his hand flat upon it in order to go on with his explanation; and Mrs. Wadman, by a manceuvre as quick as thought, would as certainly place hers close beside it; this at once opened a communication large enough for any sentiment to pass or repass, which a person skilled in the elementary and practical part of lovemaking has occasion for.
By bringing up her forefinger parallel (as before) to my uncle Toby's—it unavoidably brought the thumb into action—and the forefinger and thumb being once engaged, as naturally brought in the whole hand. Thine, dear uncle Toby, was never now in its right place—Mrs. Wadman had it ever to take up or, with the gentlest pushings, protrusions, and equivocal compressions that a hand to be removed is capable of receiving—to get it pressed a hair-breadth of one side out of her way.
Whilst this was doing, how could she forget to make him sensible, that it was her leg (and no one's else) at the bottom of the sentry-box, which slightly pressed against the calf of his—so that my uncle Toby being thus attacked and sore pushed on both his wings—was it a wonder, if now and then, it put his centre into disorder?
'The deuce take it !' said my uncle Toby.
[Again Sterne leaves his account of the garden-campaigns, this time for Toby's rambling story of the King of Bohemia and his Seven Castles, interrupted by comments on the conduct of the European war and Trim's reflections on his strange experience with a nun. Widow Wadman, who has been in her garden listening to this lengthy conversation, then opens the gate and advances towards Toby.]
'I am half distracted, Captain Shandy,' said Mrs. Wadman, holding up her cambric handkerchief to her left eye as she approached the door of my uncle Toby's sentrybox, 'a mote—or sand—or something—I know not what, has got into this eye of mine—do look into it—it is not in the white—'
In saying which, Mrs. Wadman edged herself close in beside my uncle Toby and, squeezing herself down upon the corner of his bench, she gave him an opportunity of doing it without rising up. 'Do look into it,' said she.
Honest soul! Thou didst look into it with as much innocency of heart as ever child looked into a raree-showbox; and 'twere as much a sin to have hurt thee.
If a man will be peeping of his own accord into things of that nature—I've nothing to say to it.
My uncle Toby never did: and I will answer for him that he would have sat quietly upon a sofa from June to January (which, you know, takes in both the hot and cold months), with an eye as fine as the Thracian Rhodope's beside him without being able to tell whether it was a black or blue one.
The difficulty was to get my uncle Toby to look at one at all.
'Tis surmounted. And—
I see him yonder with his pipe pendulous in his hand, and the ashes falling out of it—looking—and looking then rubbing his eyes—and looking again with twice the good-nature that ever Galileo looked for a spot in the sun.
In vain! For by all the powers which animate the organ—Widow Wadman's left eye shines this moment as lucid as her right—there is neither mote or sand or dust or chaff or speck or particle of opaque matter floating in it—there is nothing, my dear paternal uncle, but one lambent delicious fire, furtively shooting out from every part of it in all directions into thine
—If thou lookest, uncle Toby, in search of this mote one moment longer—thou art undone.
* * * * *
An eye is for all the world exactly like a cannon in this respect; that it is not so much the eye or the cannon in themselves, as it is the carriage of the eye—and the carriage of the cannon, by which both the one and the other are enabled to do so much execution. I don't think the comparison a bad one; however, as 'tis made and placed at the head of the chapter as much for use as ornament, all I desire in return is that whenever I speak of Mrs. Wadman's eyes (except once in the next period), that you keep it in your fancy.
'I protest, Madam,' said my uncle Toby, 'I can see nothing whatever in your eye.'
'It is not in the white,' said Mrs. Wadman: my uncle Toby looked with might and main into the pupil.
Now of all the eyes which ever were created—from your own, madam, up to those of Venus herself, which certainly were as lovely a pair of eyes as ever stood in a head—there never was an eye of them all so fitted to rob my uncle Toby of his repose as the very eye at which he was looking—it was not, madam, a rolling eye—a romping or a wanton one—nor was it an eye sparkling petulant or imperious—of high claims and terrifying exactions, which would have curdled at once that milk of human nature of which my uncle Toby was made up —but 'twas an eye full of gentle salutations—and soft responses—speaking—not like the trumpet—stop of some ill-made organ, in which many an eye I talk to holds coarse converse—but whispering soft—like the last low accents of an expiring saint—'How can you live comfortless, Captain Shandy, and alone, without a bosom to lean your head on—or trust your cares to?'
It was an eye—
But I shall be in love with it myself if I say another word about it.
—It did my uncle Toby's business.
* * * * *
The world is ashamed of being virtuous. My uncle Toby knew little of the world; and therefore when he felt he was in love with widow Wadman, he had no conception that the thing was any more to be made a mystery of than if Mrs. Wadman had given him a cut with a gaped knife across his finger: had it been otherwise—yet as he ever looked upon Trim as a humble friend, and saw fresh reasons every day of his life to treat him as such—it would have made no variation in the manner in which he informed him of the affair.
'I am in love, corporal!' quoth my uncle Toby.