Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. IV. Eighteenth Century
Corporal Trim and the Curate
By Laurence Sterne (17131768)
From Tristram Shandy
WHEN I gave him the toast, continued the corporal, I thought it was proper to tell him I was Captain Shandys servant, and that your honour (though a stranger) was extremely concerned for his father; and that if there was anything in your house or cellar (and thou mightest have added my purse too, said my uncle Toby) he was welcome to it. He made a very low bow (which was meant to your honour), but no answer; for his heart was full; so he went upstairs with the toast. I warrant you, my dear, said I, as I opened the kitchen door, your father will be well again. Mr. Yoricks curate was smoking a pipe by the kitchen fire; but said not a word, good or bad, to comfort the youth.I thought it 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 upstairs.
I thought, said the curate, that you gentleman 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 you 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. It was 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 in 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 in his shirt the next, benumbed in his joints; perhaps without straw in his tent to kneel on; must say his prayers how and when he can; I believe, said I, for I was piqued, quoth the corporal, for the reputation of the army, I believe, ant please your reverence, said I, that when a soldier gets time to pray, he prays as heartily as a parsonthough not with all his fuss and hypocrisy.
Thou shouldst 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 be seen 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 the meantime 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 inquired 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.