The Eighteenth 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 sofa, 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 process 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 gulf 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 heartaches⁠—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.