I had escaped, continued the corporal, all that time from falling in love, and had gone on to the end of the chapter, had it not been predestined otherwise⁠⸺⁠there is no resisting our fate.

It was on a Sunday, in the afternoon, as I told your honour.

The old man and his wife had walked out⁠⸺⁠

Everything was still and hush as midnight about the house⁠⸺⁠

There was not so much as a duck or a duckling about the yard⁠⸺⁠

⸺⁠When the fair Beguine came in to see me.

My wound was then in a fair way of doing well⁠⸺⁠the inflammation had been gone off for some time, but it was succeeded with an itching both above and below my knee, so insufferable, that I had not shut my eyes the whole night for it.

Let me see it, said she, kneeling down upon the ground parallel to my knee, and laying her hand upon the part below it⁠⸺⁠it only wants rubbing a little, said the Beguine; so covering it with the bedclothes, she began with the forefinger of her right hand to rub under my knee, guiding her forefinger backwards and forwards by the edge of the flannel which kept on the dressing.

In five or six minutes I felt slightly the end of her second finger⁠—and presently it was laid flat with the other, and she continued rubbing in that way round and round for a good while; it then came into my head, that I should fall in love⁠—I blush’d when I saw how white a hand she had⁠—I shall never, an’ please your honour, behold another hand so white whilst I live⁠⸺⁠

⸺⁠Not in that place; said my uncle Toby⁠⸺⁠

Though it was the most serious despair in nature to the corporal⁠—he could not forbear smiling.

The young Beguine, continued the corporal, perceiving it was of great service to me⁠—from rubbing for some time, with two fingers⁠—proceeded to rub at length, with three⁠—till by little and little she brought down the fourth, and then rubb’d with her whole hand: I will never say another word, an’ please your honour, upon hands again⁠—but it was softer than sattin⁠—

⸺⁠Prithee, Trim, commend it as much as thou wilt, said my uncle Toby; I shall hear thy story with the more delight⁠⸺⁠The corporal thank’d his master most unfeignedly; but having nothing to say upon the Beguine’s hand but the same over again⁠⸺⁠he proceeded to the effects of it.

The fair Beguine, said the corporal, continued rubbing with her whole hand under my knee⁠—till I fear’d her zeal would weary her⁠⸺“I would do a thousand times more,” said she, “for the love of Christ”⁠⸺⁠In saying which, she pass’d her hand across the flannel, to the part above my knee, which I had equally complain’d of, and rubb’d it also.

I perceived, then, I was beginning to be in love⁠⸺⁠

As she continued rub-rub-rubbing⁠—I felt it spread from under her hand, an’ please your honour, to every part of my frame.⁠⸺⁠

The more she rubb’d, and the longer strokes she took⁠⸺⁠the more the fire kindled in my veins⁠⸺⁠till at length, by two or three strokes longer than the rest⁠⸺⁠my passion rose to the highest pitch⁠⸺⁠I seiz’d her hand⁠⸺⁠

⸺⁠And then thou clapped’st it to thy lips, Trim, said my uncle Toby⁠⸺⁠and madest a speech.

Whether the corporal’s amour terminated precisely in the way my uncle Toby described it, is not material; it is enough that it contained in it the essence of all the love romances which ever have been wrote since the beginning of the world.