Tristram Shandy C H A P. XLV

——“I WISH, Dr. Slop,” quoth my uncle Toby, (repeating his wish for Dr. Slop a second time, and with a degree of more zeal and earnestness in his manner of wishing, than he had wished at first[5])——“I wish, Dr. Slop,” quoth my uncle Toby, “you had seen what prodigious armies we had in Flanders.”

My uncle Toby’s wish did Dr. Slop a disservice which his heart never intended any man,—Sir, it confounded him——and thereby putting his ideas first into confusion, and then to flight, he could not rally them again for the soul of him.

In all disputes,——male or female, —whether for honour, for profit, or for love,—it makes no difference in the case;—nothing is more dangerous, Madam, than a wish coming sideways in this unexpected manner upon a man: the safest way in general to take off the force of the wish, is for the party wish’d at, instantly to get upon his legs—and wish the wisher something in return, of pretty near the same value,——so balancing the account upon the spot, you stand as you were—nay sometimes gain the advantage of the attack by it.

This will be fully illustrated to the world in my chapter of wishes.—

Dr. Slop did not understand the nature of this defence;—he was puzzled with it, and it put an entire stop to the dispute for four minutes and a half;—five had been fatal to it:—my father saw the danger—the dispute was one of the most interesting disputes in the world, “Whether the child of his prayers and endeavours should be born without a head or with one:”—he waited to the last moment, to allow Dr. Slop, in whose behalf the wish was made, his right of returning it; but perceiving, I say, that he was confounded, and continued looking with that perplexed vacuity of eye which puzzled souls generally stare with—first in my uncle Toby’s face—then in his—then up—then down—then east—east and by east, and so on,——coasting it along by the plinth of the wainscot till he had got to the opposite point of the compass,——and that he had actually begun to count the brass nails upon the arm of his chair,—my father thought there was no time to be lost with my uncle Toby, so took up the discourse as follows.

[5] Vide page 260.