Page images

I was Captain Shandy's servant, and that your honour (though a stranger) was extremely concerned for his father;— And that if there was any thing in your house or cellar—(and thou might'st have added, my purse too, said my uncle Toby)—he was heartily welcome to it: — He made a very low bow, (which wai meant to your honour ) but no answer—for his heart was full—so he went up stairs with the toast;—I warrant you, my dear, said I, as I opened the kitchen door, your father will be well again—Mr. Yorick's curate was smoaking a pipe by the kitchen fire, — but said not a word good or bad to comfort the youth. — I thought it was wrong, added the corporal.— I think so too, said my uncle Toby.

When the lieutenant had taken his glass of sack and toast, he felt himself a little revived, and sent down into the kitchen, to let me know, that in about ten minutes he should be glad if I would step up stairs. — I believe said the landlord , he is going to say his prayers,—for there was a book laid upon the chair by his bedside: and as I shut the door, I saw his son take up a cushion.—

I thought, said the curate, that you gentlemen of the army, Mr. Trim, never said your prayers at all—I heard the poor gentleman say his prayers last night, said the landlady, very devoutly, and with my own ears, or I could not have believed it.—.Are)rou sure of it?replied the curate.—A soldier, an' please your reverence, said I, prays as often ( of his own accord ) as a parson;—and when he is fighting for his king , and for his own life, and for his honour too, he has the most reason to pray to God of any one in the whole world.—'Twas -well said of thee, Trim, said my uncle Toby. But when a soldier, said I, an' please your reverence , has been standing for twelve hours together in the trenches , up to his knees ia -cold water; —or engaged , said I, for months "together, in long and dangerous marches; — harassed, perhaps, in his rear to-day;—harassing others to-morrow ; —detached here; countermanded there ; resting this night out upon his arms;—beat up hi his shirt the next;—lenumb'd in his joints ; perhaps without slraw in his tent to kneel on ;—he must say his prayers Aowand when he can. — I believe, said I, for I was piqu'd, quoth the corporal, for the reputation. of the army, —I believe, an't please your reverence , said I, that when a soldier gets time to pray,—he prays as heartily as a parson— though not with all his fuss and hypocrisy.— Thou should'st not have said that, Trim, said my uncle Toby,—for God only knows who is a hypocrite, and who is not:—At the great and general review of us all, corporal, at the day of judgment, (and not till then ?)—it will beseen who have done their duties in this world, —and who have not; and we shall be advanced, Trim , accordingly. I hope we shall, said Trim —It is in the Scripture, said my uncle Toby; and I will show it thee to-morrow: —In tjie mean time we may depend upon it, Trim , for our comfort, said my uncle Toby, that God Almighty is so good and just a governor of the world, that if we have but done our duties in it,—it will never be enquired into, whether we have done them in a red coat or a black one:—I hope not, said the corporal.—But go on Trim,said my uncle Toby, with thy story. When I went up, continued the corporal,

into the lieutenant's room, which I did wot do till the expiration of the ten minutes—he was lying in his bed with his head raised upon his hand, with his elbow upon the pillow , and a clean white cambric handkerchief beside it.— The youth was just stooping down to take up the cushion , upon which I suppose he had been kneeling—the book was laid upon the bed,— and as he rose, in taking up the cushion with one hand, he reached out his other to take it away at the same time—Let it remain there, my dear , said the lieutenant.

He did not offer to speak to me , till I had walked up close to his bed-side :—If you are Capitain Shandy's servant, said he, you must present my thanks to your master, with my little boy's thanks along with them, for his courtesy to me ;—if he was of Leven's , said the lieutenant—I told him j'our honour was— Then,said he, I serv'd three campaignswithhim in Flanders , and remember him—but 'tis most likely, as I had not the honour of any acquaintance with him, that he knows nothing of me. —You will tell him, however , that the person his good-nature has laid under obligations to him, is one Le Fevre , a lieutenant in Angus's —but he knows me not—said he a second time, musing ;—possibly he may my story, added he —pray, tell the captain, I was the ensign at Breda, whose wife was most unfortunately killed with a musket shot, as she lay in my arms in my tent. I remember the story, an't pTease your honour , said I, very well. Do you so ? said he, wiping his eyes with his handkerchief, then well may I—In saying this he dr^W a little ring out of his bosom ,^which seemed tied with a black ribband about his neck,

and kissed it twice. Here , Billy , said he, —»the boy tlew across the room to the bedside, and falling down upon his knees, took the ring in his hand , and kissed if too, —then kissed his father, and sat down upon the bed and wept.

I wish, said my uncle Toby, with a deep sigh, I wish Trim , I was asleep.

Your honour, replied the corporal , is too much concerned ; shall I pour your honour out a glass of sack to your pipe ? Do, Trim, said my uncle Toby.

I remember, said my uncle Toby , sighing again, the story of the ensign and his wife , with a circumstance his modesty omitted; and particularly well that he, as well as she, upon some account or other, I forget what, was universally pitied by the whole regiment: but finish the story "thou art upon. 'Tis fhiish'd already, said the corporal, for I could stay no longer, so wished his honour a good night : young L© Fevre rose from off the bed, and saw me to the bottom of the stairs ; aud as we wont down together, told me they had come from Ireland, and were on their route to join the regiment in Flanders. But alas ! said the corporal, the lieutenant's last days march is over. Then what is to become of his poor boy! cried my oncle Toby.

It was to my uncle Toby's eternal honour— though I tell it only for the sake of those, who, when cooped in betwixt a natural and positive law , know not for their souls which way in the world to turn themselves : That notwithstanding my uncle Toby was warmly engaged at that time in carrying on the siege of .Oendermond, parallel with the allies, who pressed their's on so vigorously, that they* scace al

i -/ ."

lowed him time to get his dinner—that nevertheless he gave up Dendermond, though he had already made a lodgment upon the counterscarp, and bent his whole thoughts towards the Erivate distresses at the inn; and, except that e ordered the garden-gate to be bolted up, by which he might be said to have turned tie siege of Dendermond into a blockade,—he left Dendermond to itself, to be relieved or not by the Freuch king , as theFrench king thought good; and only considered how he himself should relieve the poor lieutenant andhisson.

—That kind Being, who is a friend to the friendless, shall recompeuce thee for this.

Thou hast left this matter short, said mj uncle Toby to the corporal, as he was putting him to bed , and I will tell thee in what, Trim. In the first place, when thou madest an offer of my services to Le Fevre , as sickness and travelling are both expensive, and thou knovrest he was but a poor lieutenant, with a son te subsist as well as himself, out of his pay, that thou didst not make au offer to him of my purse; because , had he stood in need, thou knowest, Trim , he had been as welcome to it as myself. Your honour knows, said the corporal, I had no orders, — True, quoth my uncle Toby, — thou didst very right, Trim, as a soldier,— but certainly very wrong as a man.

In the second place , for which , indeed, thou hast the same excuse, continued my uncle Toby,—when thou offeredst him whatever was in my house—rthou should'st have offered him my house too :—A sick brother officer should have the best quarters, Trim ; and if we had him with us, we could tend and look to him: —Thou art an excellent nurse thyself, Trim 5

« PreviousContinue »