READ STUDY GUIDE: Book V
CONTAINING A PORTION OF TIME SOMEWHAT LONGER THAN HALF A YEAR.
Of the SERIOUS in writing, and for what purpose it is introduced.
Peradventure there may be no parts in this prodigious work which will give the reader less pleasure in the perusing, than those which have given the author the greatest pains in composing. Among these probably may be reckoned those initial essays which we have prefixed to the historical matter contained in every book; and which we have determined to be essentially necessary to this kind of writing, of which we have set ourselves at the head.
For this our determination we do not hold ourselves strictly bound to assign any reason; it being abundantly sufficient that we have laid it down as a rule necessary to be observed in all prosai-comi-epic writing. Who ever demanded the reasons of that nice unity of time or place which is now established to be so essential to dramatic poetry? What critic hath been ever asked, why a play may not contain two days as well as one? Or why the audience (provided they travel, like electors, without any expense) may not be wafted fifty miles as well as five? Hath any commentator well accounted for the limitation which an antient critic hath set to the drama, which he will have contain neither more nor less than five acts? Or hath any one living attempted to explain what the modern judges of our theatres mean by that word _low_; by which they have happily succeeded in banishing all humour from the stage, and have made the theatre as dull as a drawing-room! Upon all these occasions the world seems to have embraced a maxim of our law, viz., _cuicunque in arte sua perito credendum est:_ for it seems perhaps difficult to conceive that any one should have had enough of impudence to lay down dogmatical rules in any art or science without the least foundation. In such cases, therefore, we are apt to conclude there are sound and good reasons at the bottom, though we are unfortunately not able to see so far.
Now, in reality, the world have paid too great a compliment to critics, and have imagined them men of much greater profundity than they really are. From this complacence, the critics have been emboldened to assume a dictatorial power, and have so far succeeded, that they are now become the masters, and have the assurance to give laws to those authors from whose predecessors they originally received them.
The critic, rightly considered, is no more than the clerk, whose office it is to transcribe the rules and laws laid down by those great judges whose vast strength of genius hath placed them in the light of legislators, in the several sciences over which they presided. This office was all which the critics of old aspired to; nor did they ever dare to advance a sentence, without supporting it by the authority of the judge from whence it was borrowed.
But in process of time, and in ages of ignorance, the clerk began to invade the power and assume the dignity of his master. The laws of writing were no longer founded on the practice of the author, but on the dictates of the critic. The clerk became the legislator, and those very peremptorily gave laws whose business it was, at first, only to transcribe them.
Hence arose an obvious, and perhaps an unavoidable error; for these critics being men of shallow capacities, very easily mistook mere form for substance. They acted as a judge would, who should adhere to the lifeless letter of law, and reject the spirit. Little circumstances, which were perhaps accidental in a great author, were by these critics considered to constitute his chief merit, and transmitted as essentials to be observed by all his successors. To these encroachments, time and ignorance, the two great supporters of imposture, gave authority; and thus many rules for good writing have been established, which have not the least foundation in truth or nature; and which commonly serve for no other purpose than to curb and restrain genius, in the same manner as it would have restrained the dancing-master, had the many excellent treatises on that art laid it down as an essential rule that every man must dance in chains.
To avoid, therefore, all imputation of laying down a rule for posterity, founded only on the authority of _ipse dixit_—for which, to say the truth, we have not the profoundest veneration—we shall here waive the privilege above contended for, and proceed to lay before the reader the reasons which have induced us to intersperse these several digressive essays in the course of this work.
And here we shall of necessity be led to open a new vein of knowledge, which if it hath been discovered, hath not, to our remembrance, been wrought on by any antient or modern writer. This vein is no other than that of contrast, which runs through all the works of the creation, and may probably have a large share in constituting in us the idea of all beauty, as well natural as artificial: for what demonstrates the beauty and excellence of anything but its reverse? Thus the beauty of day, and that of summer, is set off by the horrors of night and winter. And, I believe, if it was possible for a man to have seen only the two former, he would have a very imperfect idea of their beauty.
But to avoid too serious an air; can it be doubted, but that the finest woman in the world would lose all benefit of her charms in the eye of a man who had never seen one of another cast? The ladies themselves seem so sensible of this, that they are all industrious to procure foils: nay, they will become foils to themselves; for I have observed (at Bath particularly) that they endeavour to appear as ugly as possible in the morning, in order to set off that beauty which they intend to show you in the evening.
Most artists have this secret in practice, though some, perhaps, have not much studied the theory. The jeweller knows that the finest brilliant requires a foil; and the painter, by the contrast of his figures, often acquires great applause.
A great genius among us will illustrate this matter fully. I cannot, indeed, range him under any general head of common artists, as he hath a title to be placed among those
|_Inventas qui vitam excoluere per artes._|
|Who by invented arts have life improved.|
I mean here the inventor of that most exquisite entertainment, called the English Pantomime.
This entertainment consisted of two parts, which the inventor distinguished by the names of the serious and the comic. The serious exhibited a certain number of heathen gods and heroes, who were certainly the worst and dullest company into which an audience was ever introduced; and (which was a secret known to few) were actually intended so to be, in order to contrast the comic part of the entertainment, and to display the tricks of harlequin to the better advantage.
This was, perhaps, no very civil use of such personages: but the contrivance was, nevertheless, ingenious enough, and had its effect. And this will now plainly appear, if, instead of serious and comic, we supply the words duller and dullest; for the comic was certainly duller than anything before shown on the stage, and could be set off only by that superlative degree of dulness which composed the serious. So intolerably serious, indeed, were these gods and heroes, that harlequin (though the English gentleman of that name is not at all related to the French family, for he is of a much more serious disposition) was always welcome on the stage, as he relieved the audience from worse company.
Judicious writers have always practised this art of contrast with great success. I have been surprized that Horace should cavil at this art in Homer; but indeed he contradicts himself in the very next line:
|_Indignor quandoque bonus dormitat Homerus;|
|Verum opere in longo fas est obrepere somnum._|
|I grieve if e'er great Homer chance to sleep,|
|Yet slumbers on long works have right to creep.|
For we are not here to understand, as perhaps some have, that an author actually falls asleep while he is writing. It is true, that readers are too apt to be so overtaken; but if the work was as long as any of Oldmixon, the author himself is too well entertained to be subject to the least drowsiness. He is, as Mr Pope observes,
Sleepless himself to give his readers sleep.
To say the truth, these soporific parts are so many scenes of serious artfully interwoven, in order to contrast and set off the rest; and this is the true meaning of a late facetious writer, who told the public that whenever he was dull they might be assured there was a design in it.
In this light, then, or rather in this darkness, I would have the reader to consider these initial essays. And after this warning, if he shall be of opinion that he can find enough of serious in other parts of this history, he may pass over these, in which we profess to be laboriously dull, and begin the following books at the second chapter.
In which Mr Jones receives many friendly visits during his confinement; with some fine touches of the passion of love, scarce visible to the naked eye.
Tom Jones had many visitors during his confinement, though some, perhaps, were not very agreeable to him. Mr Allworthy saw him almost every day; but though he pitied Tom's sufferings, and greatly approved the gallant behaviour which had occasioned them; yet he thought this was a favourable opportunity to bring him to a sober sense of his indiscreet conduct; and that wholesome advice for that purpose could never be applied at a more proper season than at the present, when the mind was softened by pain and sickness, and alarmed by danger; and when its attention was unembarrassed with those turbulent passions which engage us in the pursuit of pleasure.
At all seasons, therefore, when the good man was alone with the youth, especially when the latter was totally at ease, he took occasion to remind him of his former miscarriages, but in the mildest and tenderest manner, and only in order to introduce the caution which he prescribed for his future behaviour; "on which alone," he assured him, "would depend his own felicity, and the kindness which he might yet promise himself to receive at the hands of his father by adoption, unless he should hereafter forfeit his good opinion: for as to what had past," he said, "it should be all forgiven and forgotten. He therefore advised him to make a good use of this accident, that so in the end it might prove a visitation for his own good."
Thwackum was likewise pretty assiduous in his visits; and he too considered a sick-bed to be a convenient scene for lectures. His stile, however, was more severe than Mr Allworthy's: he told his pupil, "That he ought to look on his broken limb as a judgment from heaven on his sins. That it would become him to be daily on his knees, pouring forth thanksgivings that he had broken his arm only, and not his neck; which latter," he said, "was very probably reserved for some future occasion, and that, perhaps, not very remote. For his part," he said, "he had often wondered some judgment had not overtaken him before; but it might be perceived by this, that Divine punishments, though slow, are always sure." Hence likewise he advised him, "to foresee, with equal certainty, the greater evils which were yet behind, and which were as sure as this of overtaking him in his state of reprobacy. These are," said he, "to be averted only by such a thorough and sincere repentance as is not to be expected or hoped for from one so abandoned in his youth, and whose mind, I am afraid, is totally corrupted. It is my duty, however, to exhort you to this repentance, though I too well know all exhortations will be vain and fruitless. But _liberavi animam meam._ I can accuse my own conscience of no neglect; though it is at the same time with the utmost concern I see you travelling on to certain misery in this world, and to as certain damnation in the next."
Square talked in a very different strain; he said, "Such accidents as a broken bone were below the consideration of a wise man. That it was abundantly sufficient to reconcile the mind to any of these mischances, to reflect that they are liable to befal the wisest of mankind, and are undoubtedly for the good of the whole." He said, "It was a mere abuse of words to call those things evils, in which there was no moral unfitness: that pain, which was the worst consequence of such accidents, was the most contemptible thing in the world;" with more of the like sentences, extracted out of the second book of Tully's Tusculan questions, and from the great Lord Shaftesbury. In pronouncing these he was one day so eager, that he unfortunately bit his tongue; and in such a manner, that it not only put an end to his discourse, but created much emotion in him, and caused him to mutter an oath or two: but what was worst of all, this accident gave Thwackum, who was present, and who held all such doctrine to be heathenish and atheistical, an opportunity to clap a judgment on his back. Now this was done with so malicious a sneer, that it totally unhinged (if I may so say) the temper of the philosopher, which the bite of his tongue had somewhat ruffled; and as he was disabled from venting his wrath at his lips, he had possibly found a more violent method of revenging himself, had not the surgeon, who was then luckily in the room, contrary to his own interest, interposed and preserved the peace.
Mr Blifil visited his friend Jones but seldom, and never alone. This worthy young man, however, professed much regard for him, and as great concern at his misfortune; but cautiously avoided any intimacy, lest, as he frequently hinted, it might contaminate the sobriety of his own character: for which purpose he had constantly in his mouth that proverb in which Solomon speaks against evil communication. Not that he was so bitter as Thwackum; for he always expressed some hopes of Tom's reformation; "which," he said, "the unparalleled goodness shown by his uncle on this occasion, must certainly effect in one not absolutely abandoned:" but concluded, "if Mr Jones ever offends hereafter, I shall not be able to say a syllable in his favour."
As to Squire Western, he was seldom out of the sick-room, unless when he was engaged either in the field or over his bottle. Nay, he would sometimes retire hither to take his beer, and it was not without difficulty that he was prevented from forcing Jones to take his beer too: for no quack ever held his nostrum to be a more general panacea than he did this; which, he said, had more virtue in it than was in all the physic in an apothecary's shop. He was, however, by much entreaty, prevailed on to forbear the application of this medicine; but from serenading his patient every hunting morning with the horn under his window, it was impossible to withhold him; nor did he ever lay aside that hallow, with which he entered into all companies, when he visited Jones, without any regard to the sick person's being at that time either awake or asleep.
This boisterous behaviour, as it meant no harm, so happily it effected none, and was abundantly compensated to Jones, as soon as he was able to sit up, by the company of Sophia, whom the squire then brought to visit him; nor was it, indeed, long before Jones was able to attend her to the harpsichord, where she would kindly condescend, for hours together, to charm him with the most delicious music, unless when the squire thought proper to interrupt her, by insisting on Old Sir Simon, or some other of his favourite pieces.
Notwithstanding the nicest guard which Sophia endeavoured to set on her behaviour, she could not avoid letting some appearances now and then slip forth: for love may again be likened to a disease in this, that when it is denied a vent in one part, it will certainly break out in another. What her lips, therefore, concealed, her eyes, her blushes, and many little involuntary actions, betrayed.
One day, when Sophia was playing on the harpsichord, and Jones was attending, the squire came into the room, crying, "There, Tom, I have had a battle for thee below-stairs with thick parson Thwackum. He hath been a telling Allworthy, before my face, that the broken bone was a judgment upon thee. D—n it, says I, how can that be? Did he not come by it in defence of a young woman? A judgment indeed! Pox, if he never doth anything worse, he will go to heaven sooner than all the parsons in the country. He hath more reason to glory in it than to be ashamed of it."—"Indeed, sir," says Jones, "I have no reason for either; but if it preserved Miss Western, I shall always think it the happiest accident of my life."—"And to gu," said the squire, "to zet Allworthy against thee vor it! D—n un, if the parson had unt his petticuoats on, I should have lent un o flick; for I love thee dearly, my boy, and d—n me if there is anything in my power which I won't do for thee. Sha't take thy choice of all the horses in my stable to-morrow morning, except only the Chevalier and Miss Slouch." Jones thanked him, but declined accepting the offer. "Nay," added the squire, "sha't ha the sorrel mare that Sophy rode. She cost me fifty guineas, and comes six years old this grass." "If she had cost me a thousand," cries Jones passionately, "I would have given her to the dogs." "Pooh! pooh!" answered Western; "what! because she broke thy arm? Shouldst forget and forgive. I thought hadst been more a man than to bear malice against a dumb creature."—Here Sophia interposed, and put an end to the conversation, by desiring her father's leave to play to him; a request which he never refused.
The countenance of Sophia had undergone more than one change during the foregoing speeches; and probably she imputed the passionate resentment which Jones had expressed against the mare, to a different motive from that from which her father had derived it. Her spirits were at this time in a visible flutter; and she played so intolerably ill, that had not Western soon fallen asleep, he must have remarked it. Jones, however, who was sufficiently awake, and was not without an ear any more than without eyes, made some observations; which being joined to all which the reader may remember to have passed formerly, gave him pretty strong assurances, when he came to reflect on the whole, that all was not well in the tender bosom of Sophia; an opinion which many young gentlemen will, I doubt not, extremely wonder at his not having been well confirmed in long ago. To confess the truth, he had rather too much diffidence in himself, and was not forward enough in seeing the advances of a young lady; a misfortune which can be cured only by that early town education, which is at present so generally in fashion.
When these thoughts had fully taken possession of Jones, they occasioned a perturbation in his mind, which, in a constitution less pure and firm than his, might have been, at such a season, attended with very dangerous consequences. He was truly sensible of the great worth of Sophia. He extremely liked her person, no less admired her accomplishments, and tenderly loved her goodness. In reality, as he had never once entertained any thought of possessing her, nor had ever given the least voluntary indulgence to his inclinations, he had a much stronger passion for her than he himself was acquainted with. His heart now brought forth the full secret, at the same time that it assured him the adorable object returned his affection.
Which all who have no heart will think to contain much ado about nothing.
The reader will perhaps imagine the sensations which now arose in Jones to have been so sweet and delicious, that they would rather tend to produce a chearful serenity in the mind, than any of those dangerous effects which we have mentioned; but in fact, sensations of this kind, however delicious, are, at their first recognition, of a very tumultuous nature, and have very little of the opiate in them. They were, moreover, in the present case, embittered with certain circumstances, which being mixed with sweeter ingredients, tended altogether to compose a draught that might be termed bitter-sweet; than which, as nothing can be more disagreeable to the palate, so nothing, in the metaphorical sense, can be so injurious to the mind.
For first, though he had sufficient foundation to flatter himself in what he had observed in Sophia, he was not yet free from doubt of misconstruing compassion, or at best, esteem, into a warmer regard. He was far from a sanguine assurance that Sophia had any such affection towards him, as might promise his inclinations that harvest, which, if they were encouraged and nursed, they would finally grow up to require. Besides, if he could hope to find no bar to his happiness from the daughter, he thought himself certain of meeting an effectual bar in the father; who, though he was a country squire in his diversions, was perfectly a man of the world in whatever regarded his fortune; had the most violent affection for his only daughter, and had often signified, in his cups, the pleasure he proposed in seeing her married to one of the richest men in the county. Jones was not so vain and senseless a coxcomb as to expect, from any regard which Western had professed for him, that he would ever be induced to lay aside these views of advancing his daughter. He well knew that fortune is generally the principal, if not the sole, consideration, which operates on the best of parents in these matters: for friendship makes us warmly espouse the interest of others; but it is very cold to the gratification of their passions. Indeed, to feel the happiness which may result from this, it is necessary we should possess the passion ourselves. As he had therefore no hopes of obtaining her father's consent; so he thought to endeavour to succeed without it, and by such means to frustrate the great point of Mr Western's life, was to make a very ill use of his hospitality, and a very ungrateful return to the many little favours received (however roughly) at his hands. If he saw such a consequence with horror and disdain, how much more was he shocked with what regarded Mr Allworthy; to whom, as he had more than filial obligations, so had he for him more than filial piety! He knew the nature of that good man to be so averse to any baseness or treachery, that the least attempt of such a kind would make the sight of the guilty person for ever odious to his eyes, and his name a detestable sound in his ears. The appearance of such unsurmountable difficulties was sufficient to have inspired him with despair, however ardent his wishes had been; but even these were contruoled by compassion for another woman. The idea of lovely Molly now intruded itself before him. He had sworn eternal constancy in her arms, and she had as often vowed never to out-live his deserting her. He now saw her in all the most shocking postures of death; nay, he considered all the miseries of prostitution to which she would be liable, and of which he would be doubly the occasion; first by seducing, and then by deserting her; for he well knew the hatred which all her neighbours, and even her own sisters, bore her, and how ready they would all be to tear her to pieces. Indeed, he had exposed her to more envy than shame, or rather to the latter by means of the former: for many women abused her for being a whore, while they envied her her lover, and her finery, and would have been themselves glad to have purchased these at the same rate. The ruin, therefore, of the poor girl must, he foresaw, unavoidably attend his deserting her; and this thought stung him to the soul. Poverty and distress seemed to him to give none a right of aggravating those misfortunes. The meanness of her condition did not represent her misery as of little consequence in his eyes, nor did it appear to justify, or even to palliate, his guilt, in bringing that misery upon her. But why do I mention justification? His own heart would not suffer him to destroy a human creature who, he thought, loved him, and had to that love sacrificed her innocence. His own good heart pleaded her cause; not as a cold venal advocate, but as one interested in the event, and which must itself deeply share in all the agonies its owner brought on another.
When this powerful advocate had sufficiently raised the pity of Jones, by painting poor Molly in all the circumstances of wretchedness; it artfully called in the assistance of another passion, and represented the girl in all the amiable colours of youth, health, and beauty; as one greatly the object of desire, and much more so, at least to a good mind, from being, at the same time, the object of compassion.
Amidst these thoughts, poor Jones passed a long sleepless night, and in the morning the result of the whole was to abide by Molly, and to think no more of Sophia.
In this virtuous resolution he continued all the next day till the evening, cherishing the idea of Molly, and driving Sophia from his thoughts; but in the fatal evening, a very trifling accident set all his passions again on float, and worked so total a change in his mind, that we think it decent to communicate it in a fresh chapter.
A little chapter, in which is contained a little incident.
Among other visitants, who paid their compliments to the young gentleman in his confinement, Mrs Honour was one. The reader, perhaps, when he reflects on some expressions which have formerly dropt from her, may conceive that she herself had a very particular affection for Mr Jones; but, in reality, it was no such thing. Tom was a handsome young fellow; and for that species of men Mrs Honour had some regard; but this was perfectly indiscriminate; for having being crossed in the love which she bore a certain nobleman's footman, who had basely deserted her after a promise of marriage, she had so securely kept together the broken remains of her heart, that no man had ever since been able to possess himself of any single fragment. She viewed all handsome men with that equal regard and benevolence which a sober and virtuous mind bears to all the good. She might indeed be called a lover of men, as Socrates was a lover of mankind, preferring one to another for corporeal, as he for mental qualifications; but never carrying this preference so far as to cause any perturbation in the philosophical serenity of her temper.
The day after Mr Jones had that conflict with himself which we have seen in the preceding chapter, Mrs Honour came into his room, and finding him alone, began in the following manner:—"La, sir, where do you think I have been? I warrants you, you would not guess in fifty years; but if you did guess, to be sure I must not tell you neither."—"Nay, if it be something which you must not tell me," said Jones, "I shall have the curiosity to enquire, and I know you will not be so barbarous to refuse me."—"I don't know," cries she, "why I should refuse you neither, for that matter; for to be sure you won't mention it any more. And for that matter, if you knew where I have been, unless you knew what I have been about, it would not signify much. Nay, I don't see why it should be kept a secret for my part; for to be sure she is the best lady in the world." Upon this, Jones began to beg earnestly to be let into this secret, and faithfully promised not to divulge it. She then proceeded thus:—"Why, you must know, sir, my young lady sent me to enquire after Molly Seagrim, and to see whether the wench wanted anything; to be sure, I did not care to go, methinks; but servants must do what they are ordered.—How could you undervalue yourself so, Mr Jones?—So my lady bid me go and carry her some linen, and other things. She is too good. If such forward sluts were sent to Bridewell, it would be better for them. I told my lady, says I, madam, your la'ship is encouraging idleness."—"And was my Sophia so good?" says Jones. "My Sophia! I assure you, marry come up," answered Honour. "And yet if you knew all—indeed, if I was as Mr Jones, I should look a little higher than such trumpery as Molly Seagrim." "What do you mean by these words," replied Jones, "if I knew all?" "I mean what I mean," says Honour. "Don't you remember putting your hands in my lady's muff once? I vow I could almost find in my heart to tell, if I was certain my lady would never come to the hearing on't." Jones then made several solemn protestations. And Honour proceeded—"Then to be sure, my lady gave me that muff; and afterwards, upon hearing what you had done"—"Then you told her what I had done?" interrupted Jones. "If I did, sir," answered she, "you need not be angry with me. Many's the man would have given his head to have had my lady told, if they had known,—for, to be sure, the biggest lord in the land might be proud—but, I protest, I have a great mind not to tell you." Jones fell to entreaties, and soon prevailed on her to go on thus. "You must know then, sir, that my lady had given this muff to me; but about a day or two after I had told her the story, she quarrels with her new muff, and to be sure it is the prettiest that ever was seen. Honour, says she, this is an odious muff; it is too big for me, I can't wear it: till I can get another, you must let me have my old one again, and you may have this in the room on't—for she's a good lady, and scorns to give a thing and take a thing, I promise you that. So to be sure I fetched it her back again, and, I believe, she hath worn it upon her arm almost ever since, and I warrants hath given it many a kiss when nobody hath seen her."
Here the conversation was interrupted by Mr Western himself, who came to summon Jones to the harpsichord; whither the poor young fellow went all pale and trembling. This Western observed, but, on seeing Mrs Honour, imputed it to a wrong cause; and having given Jones a hearty curse between jest and earnest, he bid him beat abroad, and not poach up the game in his warren.
Sophia looked this evening with more than usual beauty, and we may believe it was no small addition to her charms, in the eye of Mr Jones, that she now happened to have on her right arm this very muff.
She was playing one of her father's favourite tunes, and he was leaning on her chair, when the muff fell over her fingers, and put her out. This so disconcerted the squire, that he snatched the muff from her, and with a hearty curse threw it into the fire. Sophia instantly started up, and with the utmost eagerness recovered it from the flames.
Though this incident will probably appear of little consequence to many of our readers; yet, trifling as it was, it had so violent an effect on poor Jones, that we thought it our duty to relate it. In reality, there are many little circumstances too often omitted by injudicious historians, from which events of the utmost importance arise. The world may indeed be considered as a vast machine, in which the great wheels are originally set in motion by those which are very minute, and almost imperceptible to any but the strongest eyes.
Thus, not all the charms of the incomparable Sophia; not all the dazzling brightness, and languishing softness of her eyes; the harmony of her voice, and of her person; not all her wit, good-humour, greatness of mind, or sweetness of disposition, had been able so absolutely to conquer and enslave the heart of poor Jones, as this little incident of the muff. Thus the poet sweetly sings of Troy—
|_—Captique dolis lachrymisque coacti|
|Quos neque Tydides, nec Larissaeus Achilles,|
|Non anni domuere decem, non mille Carinae._|
|What Diomede or Thetis' greater son,|
|A thousand ships, nor ten years' siege had done|
|False tears and fawning words the city won.|
The citadel of Jones was now taken by surprize. All those considerations of honour and prudence which our heroe had lately with so much military wisdom placed as guards over the avenues of his heart, ran away from their posts, and the god of love marched in, in triumph.
A very long chapter, containing a very great incident.
But though this victorious deity easily expelled his avowed enemies from the heart of Jones, he found it more difficult to supplant the garrison which he himself had placed there. To lay aside all allegory, the concern for what must become of poor Molly greatly disturbed and perplexed the mind of the worthy youth. The superior merit of Sophia totally eclipsed, or rather extinguished, all the beauties of the poor girl; but compassion instead of contempt succeeded to love. He was convinced the girl had placed all her affections, and all her prospect of future happiness, in him only. For this he had, he knew, given sufficient occasion, by the utmost profusion of tenderness towards her: a tenderness which he had taken every means to persuade her he would always maintain. She, on her side, had assured him of her firm belief in his promise, and had with the most solemn vows declared, that on his fulfilling or breaking these promises, it depended, whether she should be the happiest or most miserable of womankind. And to be the author of this highest degree of misery to a human being, was a thought on which he could not bear to ruminate a single moment. He considered this poor girl as having sacrificed to him everything in her little power; as having been at her own expense the object of his pleasure; as sighing and languishing for him even at that very instant. Shall then, says he, my recovery, for which she hath so ardently wished; shall my presence, which she hath so eagerly expected, instead of giving her that joy with which she hath flattered herself, cast her at once down into misery and despair? Can I be such a villain? Here, when the genius of poor Molly seemed triumphant, the love of Sophia towards him, which now appeared no longer dubious, rushed upon his mind, and bore away every obstacle before it.
At length it occurred to him, that he might possibly be able to make Molly amends another way; namely, by giving her a sum of money. This, nevertheless, he almost despaired of her accepting, when he recollected the frequent and vehement assurances he had received from her, that the world put in balance with him would make her no amends for his loss. However, her extreme poverty, and chiefly her egregious vanity (somewhat of which hath been already hinted to the reader), gave him some little hope, that, notwithstanding all her avowed tenderness, she might in time be brought to content herself with a fortune superior to her expectation, and which might indulge her vanity, by setting her above all her equals. He resolved therefore to take the first opportunity of making a proposal of this kind.
One day, accordingly, when his arm was so well recovered that he could walk easily with it slung in a sash, he stole forth, at a season when the squire was engaged in his field exercises, and visited his fair one. Her mother and sisters, whom he found taking their tea, informed him first that Molly was not at home; but afterwards the eldest sister acquainted him, with a malicious smile, that she was above stairs a-bed. Tom had no objection to this situation of his mistress, and immediately ascended the ladder which led towards her bed-chamber; but when he came to the top, he, to his great surprize, found the door fast; nor could he for some time obtain any answer from within; for Molly, as she herself afterwards informed him, was fast asleep.
The extremes of grief and joy have been remarked to produce very similar effects; and when either of these rushes on us by surprize, it is apt to create such a total perturbation and confusion, that we are often thereby deprived of the use of all our faculties. It cannot therefore be wondered at, that the unexpected sight of Mr Jones should so strongly operate on the mind of Molly, and should overwhelm her with such confusion, that for some minutes she was unable to express the great raptures, with which the reader will suppose she was affected on this occasion. As for Jones, he was so entirely possessed, and as it were enchanted, by the presence of his beloved object, that he for a while forgot Sophia, and consequently the principal purpose of his visit.
This, however, soon recurred to his memory; and after the first transports of their meeting were over, he found means by degrees to introduce a discourse on the fatal consequences which must attend their amour, if Mr Allworthy, who had strictly forbidden him ever seeing her more, should discover that he still carried on this commerce. Such a discovery, which his enemies gave him reason to think would be unavoidable, must, he said, end in his ruin, and consequently in hers. Since therefore their hard fates had determined that they must separate, he advised her to bear it with resolution, and swore he would never omit any opportunity, through the course of his life, of showing her the sincerity of his affection, by providing for her in a manner beyond her utmost expectation, or even beyond her wishes, if ever that should be in his power; concluding at last, that she might soon find some man who would marry her, and who would make her much happier than she could be by leading a disreputable life with him.
Molly remained a few moments in silence, and then bursting into a flood of tears, she began to upbraid him in the following words: "And this is your love for me, to forsake me in this manner, now you have ruined me! How often, when I have told you that all men are false and perjury alike, and grow tired of us as soon as ever they have had their wicked wills of us, how often have you sworn you would never forsake me! And can you be such a perjury man after all? What signifies all the riches in the world to me without you, now you have gained my heart, so you have—you have—? Why do you mention another man to me? I can never love any other man as long as I live. All other men are nothing to me. If the greatest squire in all the country would come a suiting to me to-morrow, I would not give my company to him. No, I shall always hate and despise the whole sex for your sake."—
She was proceeding thus, when an accident put a stop to her tongue, before it had run out half its career. The room, or rather garret, in which Molly lay, being up one pair of stairs, that is to say, at the top of the house, was of a sloping figure, resembling the great Delta of the Greeks. The English reader may perhaps form a better idea of it, by being told that it was impossible to stand upright anywhere but in the middle. Now, as this room wanted the conveniency of a closet, Molly had, to supply that defect, nailed up an old rug against the rafters of the house, which enclosed a little hole where her best apparel, such as the remains of that sack which we have formerly mentioned, some caps, and other things with which she had lately provided herself, were hung up and secured from the dust.
This enclosed place exactly fronted the foot of the bed, to which, indeed, the rug hung so near, that it served in a manner to supply the want of curtains. Now, whether Molly, in the agonies of her rage, pushed this rug with her feet; or Jones might touch it; or whether the pin or nail gave way of its own accord, I am not certain; but as Molly pronounced those last words, which are recorded above, the wicked rug got loose from its fastening, and discovered everything hid behind it; where among other female utensils appeared—(with shame I write it, and with sorrow will it be read)—the philosopher Square, in a posture (for the place would not near admit his standing upright) as ridiculous as can possibly be conceived.
The posture, indeed, in which he stood, was not greatly unlike that of a soldier who is tied neck and heels; or rather resembling the attitude in which we often see fellows in the public streets of London, who are not suffering but deserving punishment by so standing. He had a nightcap belonging to Molly on his head, and his two large eyes, the moment the rug fell, stared directly at Jones; so that when the idea of philosophy was added to the figure now discovered, it would have been very difficult for any spectator to have refrained from immoderate laughter.
I question not but the surprize of the reader will be here equal to that of Jones; as the suspicions which must arise from the appearance of this wise and grave man in such a place, may seem so inconsistent with that character which he hath, doubtless, maintained hitherto, in the opinion of every one.
But to confess the truth, this inconsistency is rather imaginary than real. Philosophers are composed of flesh and blood as well as other human creatures; and however sublimated and refined the theory of these may be, a little practical frailty is as incident to them as to other mortals. It is, indeed, in theory only, and not in practice, as we have before hinted, that consists the difference: for though such great beings think much better and more wisely, they always act exactly like other men. They know very well how to subdue all appetites and passions, and to despise both pain and pleasure; and this knowledge affords much delightful contemplation, and is easily acquired; but the practice would be vexatious and troublesome; and, therefore, the same wisdom which teaches them to know this, teaches them to avoid carrying it into execution.
Mr Square happened to be at church on that Sunday, when, as the reader may be pleased to remember, the appearance of Molly in her sack had caused all that disturbance. Here he first observed her, and was so pleased with her beauty, that he prevailed with the young gentlemen to change their intended ride that evening, that he might pass by the habitation of Molly, and by that means might obtain a second chance of seeing her. This reason, however, as he did not at that time mention to any, so neither did we think proper to communicate it then to the reader.
Among other particulars which constituted the unfitness of things in Mr Square's opinion, danger and difficulty were two. The difficulty therefore which he apprehended there might be in corrupting this young wench, and the danger which would accrue to his character on the discovery, were such strong dissuasives, that it is probable he at first intended to have contented himself with the pleasing ideas which the sight of beauty furnishes us with. These the gravest men, after a full meal of serious meditation, often allow themselves by way of dessert: for which purpose, certain books and pictures find their way into the most private recesses of their study, and a certain liquorish part of natural philosophy is often the principal subject of their conversation.
But when the philosopher heard, a day or two afterwards, that the fortress of virtue had already been subdued, he began to give a larger scope to his desires. His appetite was not of that squeamish kind which cannot feed on a dainty because another hath tasted it. In short, he liked the girl the better for the want of that chastity, which, if she had possessed it, must have been a bar to his pleasures; he pursued and obtained her.
The reader will be mistaken, if he thinks Molly gave Square the preference to her younger lover: on the contrary, had she been confined to the choice of one only, Tom Jones would undoubtedly have been, of the two, the victorious person. Nor was it solely the consideration that two are better than one (though this had its proper weight) to which Mr Square owed his success: the absence of Jones during his confinement was an unlucky circumstance; and in that interval some well-chosen presents from the philosopher so softened and unguarded the girl's heart, that a favourable opportunity became irresistible, and Square triumphed over the poor remains of virtue which subsisted in the bosom of Molly.
It was now about a fortnight since this conquest, when Jones paid the above-mentioned visit to his mistress, at a time when she and Square were in bed together. This was the true reason why the mother denied her as we have seen; for as the old woman shared in the profits arising from the iniquity of her daughter, she encouraged and protected her in it to the utmost of her power; but such was the envy and hatred which the elder sister bore towards Molly, that, notwithstanding she had some part of the booty, she would willingly have parted with this to ruin her sister and spoil her trade. Hence she had acquainted Jones with her being above-stairs in bed, in hopes that he might have caught her in Square's arms. This, however, Molly found means to prevent, as the door was fastened; which gave her an opportunity of conveying her lover behind that rug or blanket where he now was unhappily discovered.
Square no sooner made his appearance than Molly flung herself back in her bed, cried out she was undone, and abandoned herself to despair. This poor girl, who was yet but a novice in her business, had not arrived to that perfection of assurance which helps off a town lady in any extremity; and either prompts her with an excuse, or else inspires her to brazen out the matter with her husband, who, from love of quiet, or out of fear of his reputation—and sometimes, perhaps, from fear of the gallant, who, like Mr Constant in the play, wears a sword—is glad to shut his eyes, and content to put his horns in his pocket. Molly, on the contrary, was silenced by this evidence, and very fairly gave up a cause which she had hitherto maintained with so many tears, and with such solemn and vehement protestations of the purest love and constancy.
As to the gentleman behind the arras, he was not in much less consternation. He stood for a while motionless, and seemed equally at a loss what to say, or whither to direct his eyes. Jones, though perhaps the most astonished of the three, first found his tongue; and being immediately recovered from those uneasy sensations which Molly by her upbraidings had occasioned, he burst into a loud laughter, and then saluting Mr Square, advanced to take him by the hand, and to relieve him from his place of confinement.
Square being now arrived in the middle of the room, in which part only he could stand upright, looked at Jones with a very grave countenance, and said to him, "Well, sir, I see you enjoy this mighty discovery, and, I dare swear, take great delight in the thoughts of exposing me; but if you will consider the matter fairly, you will find you are yourself only to blame. I am not guilty of corrupting innocence. I have done nothing for which that part of the world which judges of matters by the rule of right, will condemn me. Fitness is governed by the nature of things, and not by customs, forms, or municipal laws. Nothing is indeed unfit which is not unnatural."—"Well reasoned, old boy," answered Jones; "but why dost thou think that I should desire to expose thee? I promise thee, I was never better pleased with thee in my life; and unless thou hast a mind to discover it thyself, this affair may remain a profound secret for me."—"Nay, Mr Jones," replied Square, "I would not be thought to undervalue reputation. Good fame is a species of the Kalon, and it is by no means fitting to neglect it. Besides, to murder one's own reputation is a kind of suicide, a detestable and odious vice. If you think proper, therefore, to conceal any infirmity of mine (for such I may have, since no man is perfectly perfect), I promise you I will not betray myself. Things may be fitting to be done, which are not fitting to be boasted of; for by the perverse judgment of the world, that often becomes the subject of censure, which is, in truth, not only innocent but laudable."—"Right!" cries Jones: "what can be more innocent than the indulgence of a natural appetite? or what more laudable than the propagation of our species?"—"To be serious with you," answered Square, "I profess they always appeared so to me."—"And yet," said Jones, "you was of a different opinion when my affair with this girl was first discovered."—"Why, I must confess," says Square, "as the matter was misrepresented to me, by that parson Thwackum, I might condemn the corruption of innocence: it was that, sir, it was that—and that—: for you must know, Mr Jones, in the consideration of fitness, very minute circumstances, sir, very minute circumstances cause great alteration."—"Well," cries Jones, "be that as it will, it shall be your own fault, as I have promised you, if you ever hear any more of this adventure. Behave kindly to the girl, and I will never open my lips concerning the matter to any one. And, Molly, do you be faithful to your friend, and I will not only forgive your infidelity to me, but will do you all the service I can." So saying, he took a hasty leave, and, slipping down the ladder, retired with much expedition.
Square was rejoiced to find this adventure was likely to have no worse conclusion; and as for Molly, being recovered from her confusion, she began at first to upbraid Square with having been the occasion of her loss of Jones; but that gentleman soon found the means of mitigating her anger, partly by caresses, and partly by a small nostrum from his purse, of wonderful and approved efficacy in purging off the ill humours of the mind, and in restoring it to a good temper.
She then poured forth a vast profusion of tenderness towards her new lover; turned all she had said to Jones, and Jones himself, into ridicule; and vowed, though he once had the possession of her person, that none but Square had ever been master of her heart.
By comparing which with the former, the reader may possibly correct some abuse which he hath formerly been guilty of in the application of the word love.
The infidelity of Molly, which Jones had now discovered, would, perhaps, have vindicated a much greater degree of resentment than he expressed on the occasion; and if he had abandoned her directly from that moment, very few, I believe, would have blamed him.
Certain, however, it is, that he saw her in the light of compassion; and though his love to her was not of that kind which could give him any great uneasiness at her inconstancy, yet was he not a little shocked on reflecting that he had himself originally corrupted her innocence; for to this corruption he imputed all the vice into which she appeared now so likely to plunge herself.
This consideration gave him no little uneasiness, till Betty, the elder sister, was so kind, some time afterwards, entirely to cure him by a hint, that one Will Barnes, and not himself, had been the first seducer of Molly; and that the little child, which he had hitherto so certainly concluded to be his own, might very probably have an equal title, at least, to claim Barnes for its father.
Jones eagerly pursued this scent when he had first received it; and in a very short time was sufficiently assured that the girl had told him truth, not only by the confession of the fellow, but at last by that of Molly herself.
This Will Barnes was a country gallant, and had acquired as many trophies of this kind as any ensign or attorney's clerk in the kingdom. He had, indeed, reduced several women to a state of utter profligacy, had broke the hearts of some, and had the honour of occasioning the violent death of one poor girl, who had either drowned herself, or, what was rather more probable, had been drowned by him.
Among other of his conquests, this fellow had triumphed over the heart of Betty Seagrim. He had made love to her long before Molly was grown to be a fit object of that pastime; but had afterwards deserted her, and applied to her sister, with whom he had almost immediate success. Now Will had, in reality, the sole possession of Molly's affection, while Jones and Square were almost equally sacrifices to her interest and to her pride.
Hence had grown that implacable hatred which we have before seen raging in the mind of Betty; though we did not think it necessary to assign this cause sooner, as envy itself alone was adequate to all the effects we have mentioned.
Jones was become perfectly easy by possession of this secret with regard to Molly; but as to Sophia, he was far from being in a state of tranquillity; nay, indeed, he was under the most violent perturbation; his heart was now, if I may use the metaphor, entirely evacuated, and Sophia took absolute possession of it. He loved her with an unbounded passion, and plainly saw the tender sentiments she had for him; yet could not this assurance lessen his despair of obtaining the consent of her father, nor the horrors which attended his pursuit of her by any base or treacherous method.
The injury which he must thus do to Mr Western, and the concern which would accrue to Mr Allworthy, were circumstances that tormented him all day, and haunted him on his pillow at night. His life was a constant struggle between honour and inclination, which alternately triumphed over each other in his mind. He often resolved, in the absence of Sophia, to leave her father's house, and to see her no more; and as often, in her presence, forgot all those resolutions, and determined to pursue her at the hazard of his life, and at the forfeiture of what was much dearer to him.
This conflict began soon to produce very strong and visible effects: for he lost all his usual sprightliness and gaiety of temper, and became not only melancholy when alone, but dejected and absent in company; nay, if ever he put on a forced mirth, to comply with Mr Western's humour, the constraint appeared so plain, that he seemed to have been giving the strongest evidence of what he endeavoured to conceal by such ostentation.
It may, perhaps, be a question, whether the art which he used to conceal his passion, or the means which honest nature employed to reveal it, betrayed him most: for while art made him more than ever reserved to Sophia, and forbad him to address any of his discourse to her, nay, to avoid meeting her eyes, with the utmost caution; nature was no less busy in counterplotting him. Hence, at the approach of the young lady, he grew pale; and if this was sudden, started. If his eyes accidentally met hers, the blood rushed into his cheeks, and his countenance became all over scarlet. If common civility ever obliged him to speak to her, as to drink her health at table, his tongue was sure to falter. If he touched her, his hand, nay his whole frame, trembled. And if any discourse tended, however remotely, to raise the idea of love, an involuntary sigh seldom failed to steal from his bosom. Most of which accidents nature was wonderfully industrious to throw daily in his way.
All these symptoms escaped the notice of the squire: but not so of Sophia. She soon perceived these agitations of mind in Jones, and was at no loss to discover the cause; for indeed she recognized it in her own breast. And this recognition is, I suppose, that sympathy which hath been so often noted in lovers, and which will sufficiently account for her being so much quicker-sighted than her father.
But, to say the truth, there is a more simple and plain method of accounting for that prodigious superiority of penetration which we must observe in some men over the rest of the human species, and one which will serve not only in the case of lovers, but of all others. From whence is it that the knave is generally so quick-sighted to those symptoms and operations of knavery, which often dupe an honest man of a much better understanding? There surely is no general sympathy among knaves; nor have they, like freemasons, any common sign of communication. In reality, it is only because they have the same thing in their heads, and their thoughts are turned the same way. Thus, that Sophia saw, and that Western did not see, the plain symptoms of love in Jones can be no wonder, when we consider that the idea of love never entered into the head of the father, whereas the daughter, at present, thought of nothing else.
When Sophia was well satisfied of the violent passion which tormented poor Jones, and no less certain that she herself was its object, she had not the least difficulty in discovering the true cause of his present behaviour. This highly endeared him to her, and raised in her mind two of the best affections which any lover can wish to raise in a mistress—these were, esteem and pity—for sure the most outrageously rigid among her sex will excuse her pitying a man whom she saw miserable on her own account; nor can they blame her for esteeming one who visibly, from the most honourable motives, endeavoured to smother a flame in his own bosom, which, like the famous Spartan theft, was preying upon and consuming his very vitals. Thus his backwardness, his shunning her, his coldness, and his silence, were the forwardest, the most diligent, the warmest, and most eloquent advocates; and wrought so violently on her sensible and tender heart, that she soon felt for him all those gentle sensations which are consistent with a virtuous and elevated female mind. In short, all which esteem, gratitude, and pity, can inspire in such towards an agreeable man—indeed, all which the nicest delicacy can allow. In a word, she was in love with him to distraction.
One day this young couple accidentally met in the garden, at the end of the two walks which were both bounded by that canal in which Jones had formerly risqued drowning to retrieve the little bird that Sophia had there lost.
This place had been of late much frequented by Sophia. Here she used to ruminate, with a mixture of pain and pleasure, on an incident which, however trifling in itself, had possibly sown the first seeds of that affection which was now arrived to such maturity in her heart.
Here then this young couple met. They were almost close together before either of them knew anything of the other's approach. A bystander would have discovered sufficient marks of confusion in the countenance of each; but they felt too much themselves to make any observation. As soon as Jones had a little recovered his first surprize, he accosted the young lady with some of the ordinary forms of salutation, which she in the same manner returned; and their conversation began, as usual, on the delicious beauty of the morning. Hence they past to the beauty of the place, on which Jones launched forth very high encomiums. When they came to the tree whence he had formerly tumbled into the canal, Sophia could not help reminding him of that accident, and said, "I fancy, Mr Jones, you have some little shuddering when you see that water."—"I assure you, madam," answered Jones, "the concern you felt at the loss of your little bird will always appear to me the highest circumstance in that adventure. Poor little Tommy! there is the branch he stood upon. How could the little wretch have the folly to fly away from that state of happiness in which I had the honour to place him? His fate was a just punishment for his ingratitude."—"Upon my word, Mr Jones," said she, "your gallantry very narrowly escaped as severe a fate. Sure the remembrance must affect you."—"Indeed, madam," answered he, "if I have any reason to reflect with sorrow on it, it is, perhaps, that the water had not been a little deeper, by which I might have escaped many bitter heart-aches that Fortune seems to have in store for me."—"Fie, Mr Jones!" replied Sophia; "I am sure you cannot be in earnest now. This affected contempt of life is only an excess of your complacence to me. You would endeavour to lessen the obligation of having twice ventured it for my sake. Beware the third time." She spoke these last words with a smile, and a softness inexpressible. Jones answered with a sigh, "He feared it was already too late for caution:" and then looking tenderly and stedfastly on her, he cried, "Oh, Miss Western! can you desire me to live? Can you wish me so ill?" Sophia, looking down on the ground, answered with some hesitation, "Indeed, Mr Jones, I do not wish you ill."—"Oh, I know too well that heavenly temper," cries Jones, "that divine goodness, which is beyond every other charm."—"Nay, now," answered she, "I understand you not. I can stay no longer."—"I—I would not be understood!" cries he; "nay, I can't be understood. I know not what I say. Meeting you here so unexpectedly, I have been unguarded: for Heaven's sake pardon me, if I have said anything to offend you. I did not mean it. Indeed, I would rather have died—nay, the very thought would kill me."—"You surprize me," answered she. "How can you possibly think you have offended me?"—"Fear, madam," says he, "easily runs into madness; and there is no degree of fear like that which I feel of offending you. How can I speak then? Nay, don't look angrily at me: one frown will destroy me. I mean nothing. Blame my eyes, or blame those beauties. What am I saying? Pardon me if I have said too much. My heart overflowed. I have struggled with my love to the utmost, and have endeavoured to conceal a fever which preys on my vitals, and will, I hope, soon make it impossible for me ever to offend you more."
Mr Jones now fell a trembling as if he had been shaken with the fit of an ague. Sophia, who was in a situation not very different from his, answered in these words: "Mr Jones, I will not affect to misunderstand you; indeed, I understand you too well; but, for Heaven's sake, if you have any affection for me, let me make the best of my way into the house. I wish I may be able to support myself thither."
Jones, who was hardly able to support himself, offered her his arm, which she condescended to accept, but begged he would not mention a word more to her of this nature at present. He promised he would not; insisting only on her forgiveness of what love, without the leave of his will, had forced from him: this, she told him, he knew how to obtain by his future behaviour; and thus this young pair tottered and trembled along, the lover not once daring to squeeze the hand of his mistress, though it was locked in his.
Sophia immediately retired to her chamber, where Mrs Honour and the hartshorn were summoned to her assistance. As to poor Jones, the only relief to his distempered mind was an unwelcome piece of news, which, as it opens a scene of different nature from those in which the reader hath lately been conversant, will be communicated to him in the next chapter.
In which Mr Allworthy appears on a sick-bed.
Mr Western was become so fond of Jones that he was unwilling to part with him, though his arm had been long since cured; and Jones, either from the love of sport, or from some other reason, was easily persuaded to continue at his house, which he did sometimes for a fortnight together without paying a single visit at Mr Allworthy's; nay, without ever hearing from thence.
Mr Allworthy had been for some days indisposed with a cold, which had been attended with a little fever. This he had, however, neglected; as it was usual with him to do all manner of disorders which did not confine him to his bed, or prevent his several faculties from performing their ordinary functions;—a conduct which we would by no means be thought to approve or recommend to imitation; for surely the gentlemen of the Aesculapian art are in the right in advising, that the moment the disease has entered at one door, the physician should be introduced at the other: what else is meant by that old adage, _Venienti occurrite morbo?_ "Oppose a distemper at its first approach." Thus the doctor and the disease meet in fair and equal conflict; whereas, by giving time to the latter, we often suffer him to fortify and entrench himself, like a French army; so that the learned gentleman finds it very difficult, and sometimes impossible, to come at the enemy. Nay, sometimes by gaining time the disease applies to the French military politics, and corrupts nature over to his side, and then all the powers of physic must arrive too late. Agreeable to these observations was, I remember, the complaint of the great Doctor Misaubin, who used very pathetically to lament the late applications which were made to his skill, saying, "Bygar, me believe my pation take me for de undertaker, for dey never send for me till de physicion have kill dem."
Mr Allworthy's distemper, by means of this neglect, gained such ground, that, when the increase of his fever obliged him to send for assistance, the doctor at his first arrival shook his head, wished he had been sent for sooner, and intimated that he thought him in very imminent danger. Mr Allworthy, who had settled all his affairs in this world, and was as well prepared as it is possible for human nature to be for the other, received this information with the utmost calmness and unconcern. He could, indeed, whenever he laid himself down to rest, say with Cato in the tragical poem—
|Let guilt or fear|
|Disturb man's rest: Cato knows neither of them;|
|Indifferent in his choice to sleep or die.|
In reality, he could say this with ten times more reason and confidence than Cato, or any other proud fellow among the antient or modern heroes; for he was not only devoid of fear, but might be considered as a faithful labourer, when at the end of harvest he is summoned to receive his reward at the hands of a bountiful master.
The good man gave immediate orders for all his family to be summoned round him. None of these were then abroad, but Mrs Blifil, who had been some time in London, and Mr Jones, whom the reader hath just parted from at Mr Western's, and who received this summons just as Sophia had left him.
The news of Mr Allworthy's danger (for the servant told him he was dying) drove all thoughts of love out of his head. He hurried instantly into the chariot which was sent for him, and ordered the coachman to drive with all imaginable haste; nor did the idea of Sophia, I believe, once occur to him on the way.
And now the whole family, namely, Mr Blifil, Mr Jones, Mr Thwackum, Mr Square, and some of the servants (for such were Mr Allworthy's orders) being all assembled round his bed, the good man sat up in it, and was beginning to speak, when Blifil fell to blubbering, and began to express very loud and bitter lamentations. Upon this Mr Allworthy shook him by the hand, and said, "Do not sorrow thus, my dear nephew, at the most ordinary of all human occurrences. When misfortunes befal our friends we are justly grieved; for those are accidents which might often have been avoided, and which may seem to render the lot of one man more peculiarly unhappy than that of others; but death is certainly unavoidable, and is that common lot in which alone the fortunes of all men agree: nor is the time when this happens to us very material. If the wisest of men hath compared life to a span, surely we may be allowed to consider it as a day. It is my fate to leave it in the evening; but those who are taken away earlier have only lost a few hours, at the best little worth lamenting, and much oftener hours of labour and fatigue, of pain and sorrow. One of the Roman poets, I remember, likens our leaving life to our departure from a feast;—a thought which hath often occurred to me when I have seen men struggling to protract an entertainment, and to enjoy the company of their friends a few moments longer. Alas! how short is the most protracted of such enjoyments! how immaterial the difference between him who retires the soonest, and him who stays the latest! This is seeing life in the best view, and this unwillingness to quit our friends is the most amiable motive from which we can derive the fear of death; and yet the longest enjoyment which we can hope for of this kind is of so trivial a duration, that it is to a wise man truly contemptible. Few men, I own, think in this manner; for, indeed, few men think of death till they are in its jaws. However gigantic and terrible an object this may appear when it approaches them, they are nevertheless incapable of seeing it at any distance; nay, though they have been ever so much alarmed and frightened when they have apprehended themselves in danger of dying, they are no sooner cleared from this apprehension than even the fears of it are erased from their minds. But, alas! he who escapes from death is not pardoned; he is only reprieved, and reprieved to a short day.
"Grieve, therefore, no more, my dear child, on this occasion: an event which may happen every hour; which every element, nay, almost every particle of matter that surrounds us is capable of producing, and which must and will most unavoidably reach us all at last, ought neither to occasion our surprize nor our lamentation.
"My physician having acquainted me (which I take very kindly of him) that I am in danger of leaving you all very shortly, I have determined to say a few words to you at this our parting, before my distemper, which I find grows very fast upon me, puts it out of my power.
"But I shall waste my strength too much. I intended to speak concerning my will, which, though I have settled long ago, I think proper to mention such heads of it as concern any of you, that I may have the comfort of perceiving you are all satisfied with the provision I have there made for you.
"Nephew Blifil, I leave you the heir to my whole estate, except only L500 a-year, which is to revert to you after the death of your mother, and except one other estate of L500 a-year, and the sum of L6000, which I have bestowed in the following manner:
"The estate of L500 a-year I have given to you, Mr Jones: and as I know the inconvenience which attends the want of ready money, I have added L1000 in specie. In this I know not whether I have exceeded or fallen short of your expectation. Perhaps you will think I have given you too little, and the world will be as ready to condemn me for giving you too much; but the latter censure I despise; and as to the former, unless you should entertain that common error which I have often heard in my life pleaded as an excuse for a total want of charity, namely, that instead of raising gratitude by voluntary acts of bounty, we are apt to raise demands, which of all others are the most boundless and most difficult to satisfy.—Pardon me the bare mention of this; I will not suspect any such thing."
Jones flung himself at his benefactor's feet, and taking eagerly hold of his hand, assured him his goodness to him, both now and all other times, had so infinitely exceeded not only his merit but his hopes, that no words could express his sense of it. "And I assure you, sir," said he, "your present generosity hath left me no other concern than for the present melancholy occasion. Oh, my friend, my father!" Here his words choaked him, and he turned away to hide a tear which was starting from his eyes.
Allworthy then gently squeezed his hand, and proceeded thus: "I am convinced, my child, that you have much goodness, generosity, and honour, in your temper: if you will add prudence and religion to these, you must be happy; for the three former qualities, I admit, make you worthy of happiness, but they are the latter only which will put you in possession of it.
"One thousand pound I have given to you, Mr Thwackum; a sum I am convinced which greatly exceeds your desires, as well as your wants. However, you will receive it as a memorial of my friendship; and whatever superfluities may redound to you, that piety which you so rigidly maintain will instruct you how to dispose of them.
"A like sum, Mr Square, I have bequeathed to you. This, I hope, will enable you to pursue your profession with better success than hitherto. I have often observed with concern, that distress is more apt to excite contempt than commiseration, especially among men of business, with whom poverty is understood to indicate want of ability. But the little I have been able to leave you will extricate you from those difficulties with which you have formerly struggled; and then I doubt not but you will meet with sufficient prosperity to supply what a man of your philosophical temper will require.
"I find myself growing faint, so I shall refer you to my will for my disposition of the residue. My servants will there find some tokens to remember me by; and there are a few charities which, I trust, my executors will see faithfully performed. Bless you all. I am setting out a little before you."—
Here a footman came hastily into the room, and said there was an attorney from Salisbury who had a particular message, which he said he must communicate to Mr Allworthy himself: that he seemed in a violent hurry, and protested he had so much business to do, that, if he could cut himself into four quarters, all would not be sufficient.
"Go, child," said Allworthy to Blifil, "see what the gentleman wants. I am not able to do any business now, nor can he have any with me, in which you are not at present more concerned than myself. Besides, I really am—I am incapable of seeing any one at present, or of any longer attention." He then saluted them all, saying, perhaps he should be able to see them again, but he should be now glad to compose himself a little, finding that he had too much exhausted his spirits in discourse.
Some of the company shed tears at their parting; and even the philosopher Square wiped his eyes, albeit unused to the melting mood. As to Mrs Wilkins, she dropt her pearls as fast as the Arabian trees their medicinal gums; for this was a ceremonial which that gentlewoman never omitted on a proper occasion.
After this Mr Allworthy again laid himself down on his pillow, and endeavoured to compose himself to rest.
Containing matter rather natural than pleasing.
Besides grief for her master, there was another source for that briny stream which so plentifully rose above the two mountainous cheek-bones of the housekeeper. She was no sooner retired, than she began to mutter to herself in the following pleasant strain: "Sure master might have made some difference, methinks, between me and the other servants. I suppose he hath left me mourning; but, i'fackins! if that be all, the devil shall wear it for him, for me. I'd have his worship know I am no beggar. I have saved five hundred pound in his service, and after all to be used in this manner.—It is a fine encouragement to servants to be honest; and to be sure, if I have taken a little something now and then, others have taken ten times as much; and now we are all put in a lump together. If so be that it be so, the legacy may go to the devil with him that gave it. No, I won't give it up neither, because that will please some folks. No, I'll buy the gayest gown I can get, and dance over the old curmudgeon's grave in it. This is my reward for taking his part so often, when all the country have cried shame of him, for breeding up his bastard in that manner; but he is going now where he must pay for all. It would have become him better to have repented of his sins on his deathbed, than to glory in them, and give away his estate out of his own family to a misbegotten child. Found in his bed, forsooth! a pretty story! ay, ay, those that hide know where to find. Lord forgive him! I warrant he hath many more bastards to answer for, if the truth was known. One comfort is, they will all be known where he is a going now.—'The servants will find some token to remember me by.' Those were the very words; I shall never forget them, if I was to live a thousand years. Ay, ay, I shall remember you for huddling me among the servants. One would have thought he might have mentioned my name as well as that of Square; but he is a gentleman forsooth, though he had not cloths on his back when he came hither first. Marry come up with such gentlemen! though he hath lived here this many years, I don't believe there is arrow a servant in the house ever saw the colour of his money. The devil shall wait upon such a gentleman for me." Much more of the like kind she muttered to herself; but this taste shall suffice to the reader.
Neither Thwackum nor Square were much better satisfied with their legacies. Though they breathed not their resentment so loud, yet from the discontent which appeared in their countenances, as well as from the following dialogue, we collect that no great pleasure reigned in their minds.
About an hour after they had left the sick-room, Square met Thwackum in the hall and accosted him thus: "Well, sir, have you heard any news of your friend since we parted from him?"—"If you mean Mr Allworthy," answered Thwackum, "I think you might rather give him the appellation of your friend; for he seems to me to have deserved that title."—"The title is as good on your side," replied Square, "for his bounty, such as it is, hath been equal to both."—"I should not have mentioned it first," cries Thwackum, "but since you begin, I must inform you I am of a different opinion. There is a wide distinction between voluntary favours and rewards. The duty I have done in his family, and the care I have taken in the education of his two boys, are services for which some men might have expected a greater return. I would not have you imagine I am therefore dissatisfied; for St Paul hath taught me to be content with the little I have. Had the modicum been less, I should have known my duty. But though the Scriptures obliges me to remain contented, it doth not enjoin me to shut my eyes to my own merit, nor restrain me from seeing when I am injured by an unjust comparison."—"Since you provoke me," returned Square, "that injury is done to me; nor did I ever imagine Mr Allworthy had held my friendship so light, as to put me in balance with one who received his wages. I know to what it is owing; it proceeds from those narrow principles which you have been so long endeavouring to infuse into him, in contempt of everything which is great and noble. The beauty and loveliness of friendship is too strong for dim eyes, nor can it be perceived by any other medium than that unerring rule of right, which you have so often endeavoured to ridicule, that you have perverted your friend's understanding."—"I wish," cries Thwackum, in a rage, "I wish, for the sake of his soul, your damnable doctrines have not perverted his faith. It is to this I impute his present behaviour, so unbecoming a Christian. Who but an atheist could think of leaving the world without having first made up his account? without confessing his sins, and receiving that absolution which he knew he had one in the house duly authorized to give him? He will feel the want of these necessaries when it is too late, when he is arrived at that place where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth. It is then he will find in what mighty stead that heathen goddess, that virtue, which you and all other deists of the age adore, will stand him. He will then summon his priest, when there is none to be found, and will lament the want of that absolution, without which no sinner can be safe."—"If it be so material," says Square, "why don't you present it him of your own accord?" "It hath no virtue," cries Thwackum, "but to those who have sufficient grace to require it. But why do I talk thus to a heathen and an unbeliever? It is you that taught him this lesson, for which you have been well rewarded in this world, as I doubt not your disciple will soon be in the other."—"I know not what you mean by reward," said Square; "but if you hint at that pitiful memorial of our friendship, which he hath thought fit to bequeath me, I despise it; and nothing but the unfortunate situation of my circumstances should prevail on me to accept it."
The physician now arrived, and began to inquire of the two disputants, how we all did above-stairs? "In a miserable way," answered Thwackum. "It is no more than I expected," cries the doctor: "but pray what symptoms have appeared since I left you?"—"No good ones, I am afraid," replied Thwackum: "after what past at our departure, I think there were little hopes." The bodily physician, perhaps, misunderstood the curer of souls; and before they came to an explanation, Mr Blifil came to them with a most melancholy countenance, and acquainted them that he brought sad news, that his mother was dead at Salisbury; that she had been seized on the road home with the gout in her head and stomach, which had carried her off in a few hours. "Good-lack-a-day!" says the doctor. "One cannot answer for events; but I wish I had been at hand, to have been called in. The gout is a distemper which it is difficult to treat; yet I have been remarkably successful in it." Thwackum and Square both condoled with Mr Blifil for the loss of his mother, which the one advised him to bear like a man, and the other like a Christian. The young gentleman said he knew very well we were all mortal, and he would endeavour to submit to his loss as well as he could. That he could not, however, help complaining a little against the peculiar severity of his fate, which brought the news of so great a calamity to him by surprize, and that at a time when he hourly expected the severest blow he was capable of feeling from the malice of fortune. He said, the present occasion would put to the test those excellent rudiments which he had learnt from Mr Thwackum and Mr Square; and it would be entirely owing to them, if he was enabled to survive such misfortunes.
It was now debated whether Mr Allworthy should be informed of the death of his sister. This the doctor violently opposed; in which, I believe, the whole college would agree with him: but Mr Blifil said, he had received such positive and repeated orders from his uncle, never to keep any secret from him for fear of the disquietude which it might give him, that he durst not think of disobedience, whatever might be the consequence. He said, for his part, considering the religious and philosophic temper of his uncle, he could not agree with the doctor in his apprehensions. He was therefore resolved to communicate it to him: for if his uncle recovered (as he heartily prayed he might) he knew he would never forgive an endeavour to keep a secret of this kind from him.
The physician was forced to submit to these resolutions, which the two other learned gentlemen very highly commended. So together moved Mr Blifil and the doctor toward the sick-room; where the physician first entered, and approached the bed, in order to feel his patient's pulse, which he had no sooner done, than he declared he was much better; that the last application had succeeded to a miracle, and had brought the fever to intermit: so that, he said, there appeared now to be as little danger as he had before apprehended there were hopes.
To say the truth, Mr Allworthy's situation had never been so bad as the great caution of the doctor had represented it: but as a wise general never despises his enemy, however inferior that enemy's force may be, so neither doth a wise physician ever despise a distemper, however inconsiderable. As the former preserves the same strict discipline, places the same guards, and employs the same scouts, though the enemy be never so weak; so the latter maintains the same gravity of countenance, and shakes his head with the same significant air, let the distemper be never so trifling. And both, among many other good ones, may assign this solid reason for their conduct, that by these means the greater glory redounds to them if they gain the victory, and the less disgrace if by any unlucky accident they should happen to be conquered.
Mr Allworthy had no sooner lifted up his eyes, and thanked Heaven for these hopes of his recovery, than Mr Blifil drew near, with a very dejected aspect, and having applied his handkerchief to his eye, either to wipe away his tears, or to do as Ovid somewhere expresses himself on another occasion
_Si nullus erit, tamen excute nullum,_
If there be none, then wipe away that none,
he communicated to his uncle what the reader hath been just before acquainted with.
Allworthy received the news with concern, with patience, and with resignation. He dropt a tender tear, then composed his countenance, and at last cried, "The Lord's will be done in everything."
He now enquired for the messenger; but Blifil told him it had been impossible to detain him a moment; for he appeared by the great hurry he was in to have some business of importance on his hands; that he complained of being hurried and driven and torn out of his life, and repeated many times, that if he could divide himself into four quarters, he knew how to dispose of every one.
Allworthy then desired Blifil to take care of the funeral. He said, he would have his sister deposited in his own chapel; and as to the particulars, he left them to his own discretion, only mentioning the person whom he would have employed on this occasion.
Which, among other things, may serve as a comment on that saying of Aeschines, that "drunkenness shows the mind of a man, as a mirrour reflects his person."
The reader may perhaps wonder at hearing nothing of Mr Jones in the last chapter. In fact, his behaviour was so different from that of the persons there mentioned, that we chose not to confound his name with theirs.
When the good man had ended his speech, Jones was the last who deserted the room. Thence he retired to his own apartment, to give vent to his concern; but the restlessness of his mind would not suffer him to remain long there; he slipped softly therefore to Allworthy's chamber-door, where he listened a considerable time without hearing any kind of motion within, unless a violent snoring, which at last his fears misrepresented as groans. This so alarmed him, that he could not forbear entering the room; where he found the good man in the bed, in a sweet composed sleep, and his nurse snoring in the above mentioned hearty manner, at the bed's feet. He immediately took the only method of silencing this thorough bass, whose music he feared might disturb Mr Allworthy; and then sitting down by the nurse, he remained motionless till Blifil and the doctor came in together and waked the sick man, in order that the doctor might feel his pulse, and that the other might communicate to him that piece of news, which, had Jones been apprized of it, would have had great difficulty of finding its way to Mr Allworthy's ear at such a season.
When he first heard Blifil tell his uncle this story, Jones could hardly contain the wrath which kindled in him at the other's indiscretion, especially as the doctor shook his head, and declared his unwillingness to have the matter mentioned to his patient. But as his passion did not so far deprive him of all use of his understanding, as to hide from him the consequences which any violent expression towards Blifil might have on the sick, this apprehension stilled his rage at the present; and he grew afterwards so satisfied with finding that this news had, in fact, produced no mischief, that he suffered his anger to die in his own bosom, without ever mentioning it to Blifil.
The physician dined that day at Mr Allworthy's; and having after dinner visited his patient, he returned to the company, and told them, that he had now the satisfaction to say, with assurance, that his patient was out of all danger: that he had brought his fever to a perfect intermission, and doubted not by throwing in the bark to prevent its return.
This account so pleased Jones, and threw him into such immoderate excess of rapture, that he might be truly said to be drunk with joy—an intoxication which greatly forwards the effects of wine; and as he was very free too with the bottle on this occasion (for he drank many bumpers to the doctor's health, as well as to other toasts) he became very soon literally drunk.
Jones had naturally violent animal spirits: these being set on float and augmented by the spirit of wine, produced most extravagant effects. He kissed the doctor, and embraced him with the most passionate endearments; swearing that next to Mr Allworthy himself, he loved him of all men living. "Doctor," added he, "you deserve a statue to be erected to you at the public expense, for having preserved a man, who is not only the darling of all good men who know him, but a blessing to society, the glory of his country, and an honour to human nature. D—n me if I don't love him better than my own soul."
"More shame for you," cries Thwackum. "Though I think you have reason to love him, for he hath provided very well for you. And perhaps it might have been better for some folks that he had not lived to see just reason of revoking his gift."
Jones now looking on Thwackum with inconceivable disdain, answered, "And doth thy mean soul imagine that any such considerations could weigh with me? No, let the earth open and swallow her own dirt (if I had millions of acres I would say it) rather than swallow up my dear glorious friend."
|_Quis desiderio sit pudor aut modus|
|Tam chari capitis?_[*]|
|[*] "What modesty or measure can set bounds to our desire of so dear|
|a friend?" The word _desiderium_ here cannot be easily translated.|
|It includes our desire of enjoying our friend again, and the grief|
|which attends that desire.|
The doctor now interposed, and prevented the effects of a wrath which was kindling between Jones and Thwackum; after which the former gave a loose to mirth, sang two or three amorous songs, and fell into every frantic disorder which unbridled joy is apt to inspire; but so far was he from any disposition to quarrel, that he was ten times better humoured, if possible, than when he was sober.
To say truth, nothing is more erroneous than the common observation, that men who are ill-natured and quarrelsome when they are drunk, are very worthy persons when they are sober: for drink, in reality, doth not reverse nature, or create passions in men which did not exist in them before. It takes away the guard of reason, and consequently forces us to produce those symptoms, which many, when sober, have art enough to conceal. It heightens and inflames our passions (generally indeed that passion which is uppermost in our mind), so that the angry temper, the amorous, the generous, the good-humoured, the avaricious, and all other dispositions of men, are in their cups heightened and exposed.
And yet as no nation produces so many drunken quarrels, especially among the lower people, as England (for indeed, with them, to drink and to fight together are almost synonymous terms), I would not, methinks, have it thence concluded, that the English are the worst-natured people alive. Perhaps the love of glory only is at the bottom of this; so that the fair conclusion seems to be, that our countrymen have more of that love, and more of bravery, than any other plebeians. And this the rather, as there is seldom anything ungenerous, unfair, or ill-natured, exercised on these occasions: nay, it is common for the combatants to express good-will for each other even at the time of the conflict; and as their drunken mirth generally ends in a battle, so do most of their battles end in friendship.
But to return to our history. Though Jones had shown no design of giving offence, yet Mr Blifil was highly offended at a behaviour which was so inconsistent with the sober and prudent reserve of his own temper. He bore it too with the greater impatience, as it appeared to him very indecent at this season; "When," as he said, "the house was a house of mourning, on the account of his dear mother; and if it had pleased Heaven to give him some prospect of Mr Allworthy's recovery, it would become them better to express the exultations of their hearts in thanksgiving, than in drunkenness and riots; which were properer methods to encrease the Divine wrath, than to avert it." Thwackum, who had swallowed more liquor than Jones, but without any ill effect on his brain, seconded the pious harangue of Blifil; but Square, for reasons which the reader may probably guess, was totally silent.
Wine had not so totally overpowered Jones, as to prevent his recollecting Mr Blifil's loss, the moment it was mentioned. As no person, therefore, was more ready to confess and condemn his own errors, he offered to shake Mr Blifil by the hand, and begged his pardon, saying, "His excessive joy for Mr Allworthy's recovery had driven every other thought out of his mind."
Blifil scornfully rejected his hand; and with much indignation answered, "It was little to be wondered at, if tragical spectacles made no impression on the blind; but, for his part, he had the misfortune to know who his parents were, and consequently must be affected with their loss."
Jones, who, notwithstanding his good humour, had some mixture of the irascible in his constitution, leaped hastily from his chair, and catching hold of Blifil's collar, cried out, "D—n you for a rascal, do you insult me with the misfortune of my birth?" He accompanied these words with such rough actions, that they soon got the better of Mr Blifil's peaceful temper; and a scuffle immediately ensued, which might have produced mischief, had it not been prevented by the interposition of Thwackum and the physician; for the philosophy of Square rendered him superior to all emotions, and he very calmly smoaked his pipe, as was his custom in all broils, unless when he apprehended some danger of having it broke in his mouth.
The combatants being now prevented from executing present vengeance on each other, betook themselves to the common resources of disappointed rage, and vented their wrath in threats and defiance. In this kind of conflict, Fortune, which, in the personal attack, seemed to incline to Jones, was now altogether as favourable to his enemy.
A truce, nevertheless, was at length agreed on, by the mediation of the neutral parties, and the whole company again sat down at the table; where Jones being prevailed on to ask pardon, and Blifil to give it, peace was restored, and everything seemed _in statu quo_.
But though the quarrel was, in all appearance, perfectly reconciled, the good humour which had been interrupted by it, was by no means restored. All merriment was now at an end, and the subsequent discourse consisted only of grave relations of matters of fact, and of as grave observations upon them; a species of conversation, in which, though there is much of dignity and instruction, there is but little entertainment. As we presume therefore to convey only this last to the reader, we shall pass by whatever was said, till the rest of the company having by degrees dropped off, left only Square and the physician together; at which time the conversation was a little heightened by some comments on what had happened between the two young gentlemen; both of whom the doctor declared to be no better than scoundrels; to which appellation the philosopher, very sagaciously shaking his head, agreed.
Showing the truth of many observations of Ovid, and of other more grave writers, who have proved beyond contradiction, that wine is often the forerunner of incontinency.
Jones retired from the company, in which we have seen him engaged, into the fields, where he intended to cool himself by a walk in the open air before he attended Mr Allworthy. There, whilst he renewed those meditations on his dear Sophia, which the dangerous illness of his friend and benefactor had for some time interrupted, an accident happened, which with sorrow we relate, and with sorrow doubtless will it be read; however, that historic truth to which we profess so inviolable an attachment, obliges us to communicate it to posterity.
It was now a pleasant evening in the latter end of June, when our heroe was walking in a most delicious grove, where the gentle breezes fanning the leaves, together with the sweet trilling of a murmuring stream, and the melodious notes of nightingales, formed altogether the most enchanting harmony. In this scene, so sweetly accommodated to love, he meditated on his dear Sophia. While his wanton fancy roamed unbounded over all her beauties, and his lively imagination painted the charming maid in various ravishing forms, his warm heart melted with tenderness; and at length, throwing himself on the ground, by the side of a gently murmuring brook, he broke forth into the following ejaculation:
"O Sophia, would Heaven give thee to my arms, how blest would be my condition! Curst be that fortune which sets a distance between us. Was I but possessed of thee, one only suit of rags thy whole estate, is there a man on earth whom I would envy! How contemptible would the brightest Circassian beauty, drest in all the jewels of the Indies, appear to my eyes! But why do I mention another woman? Could I think my eyes capable of looking at any other with tenderness, these hands should tear them from my head. No, my Sophia, if cruel fortune separates us for ever, my soul shall doat on thee alone. The chastest constancy will I ever preserve to thy image. Though I should never have possession of thy charming person, still shalt thou alone have possession of my thoughts, my love, my soul. Oh! my fond heart is so wrapt in that tender bosom, that the brightest beauties would for me have no charms, nor would a hermit be colder in their embraces. Sophia, Sophia alone shall be mine. What raptures are in that name! I will engrave it on every tree."
At these words he started up, and beheld—not his Sophia—no, nor a Circassian maid richly and elegantly attired for the grand Signior's seraglio. No; without a gown, in a shift that was somewhat of the coarsest, and none of the cleanest, bedewed likewise with some odoriferous effluvia, the produce of the day's labour, with a pitchfork in her hand, Molly Seagrim approached. Our hero had his penknife in his hand, which he had drawn for the before-mentioned purpose of carving on the bark; when the girl coming near him, cryed out with a smile, "You don't intend to kill me, squire, I hope!"—"Why should you think I would kill you?" answered Jones. "Nay," replied she, "after your cruel usage of me when I saw you last, killing me would, perhaps, be too great kindness for me to expect."
Here ensued a parley, which, as I do not think myself obliged to relate it, I shall omit. It is sufficient that it lasted a full quarter of an hour, at the conclusion of which they retired into the thickest part of the grove.
Some of my readers may be inclined to think this event unnatural. However, the fact is true; and perhaps may be sufficiently accounted for by suggesting, that Jones probably thought one woman better than none, and Molly as probably imagined two men to be better than one. Besides the before-mentioned motive assigned to the present behaviour of Jones, the reader will be likewise pleased to recollect in his favour, that he was not at this time perfect master of that wonderful power of reason, which so well enables grave and wise men to subdue their unruly passions, and to decline any of these prohibited amusements. Wine now had totally subdued this power in Jones. He was, indeed, in a condition, in which, if reason had interposed, though only to advise, she might have received the answer which one Cleostratus gave many years ago to a silly fellow, who asked him, if he was not ashamed to be drunk? "Are not you," said Cleostratus, "ashamed to admonish a drunken man?"—To say the truth, in a court of justice drunkenness must not be an excuse, yet in a court of conscience it is greatly so; and therefore Aristotle, who commends the laws of Pittacus, by which drunken men received double punishment for their crimes, allows there is more of policy than justice in that law. Now, if there are any transgressions pardonable from drunkenness, they are certainly such as Mr Jones was at present guilty of; on which head I could pour forth a vast profusion of learning, if I imagined it would either entertain my reader, or teach him anything more than he knows already. For his sake therefore I shall keep my learning to myself, and return to my history.
It hath been observed, that Fortune seldom doth things by halves. To say truth, there is no end to her freaks whenever she is disposed to gratify or displease. No sooner had our heroe retired with his Dido, but
|_Speluncam_ Blifil _dux et divinus eandem|
the parson and the young squire, who were taking a serious walk, arrived at the stile which leads into the grove, and the latter caught a view of the lovers just as they were sinking out of sight.
Blifil knew Jones very well, though he was at above a hundred yards' distance, and he was as positive to the sex of his companion, though not to the individual person. He started, blessed himself, and uttered a very solemn ejaculation.
Thwackum expressed some surprize at these sudden emotions, and asked the reason of them. To which Blifil answered, "He was certain he had seen a fellow and wench retire together among the bushes, which he doubted not was with some wicked purpose." As to the name of Jones, he thought proper to conceal it, and why he did so must be left to the judgment of the sagacious reader; for we never chuse to assign motives to the actions of men, when there is any possibility of our being mistaken.
The parson, who was not only strictly chaste in his own person, but a great enemy to the opposite vice in all others, fired at this information. He desired Mr Blifil to conduct him immediately to the place, which as he approached he breathed forth vengeance mixed with lamentations; nor did he refrain from casting some oblique reflections on Mr Allworthy; insinuating that the wickedness of the country was principally owing to the encouragement he had given to vice, by having exerted such kindness to a bastard, and by having mitigated that just and wholesome rigour of the law which allots a very severe punishment to loose wenches.
The way through which our hunters were to pass in pursuit of their game was so beset with briars, that it greatly obstructed their walk, and caused besides such a rustling, that Jones had sufficient warning of their arrival before they could surprize him; nay, indeed, so incapable was Thwackum of concealing his indignation, and such vengeance did he mutter forth every step he took, that this alone must have abundantly satisfied Jones that he was (to use the language of sportsmen) found sitting.
In which a simile in Mr Pope's period of a mile introduces as bloody a battle as can possibly be fought without the assistance of steel or cold iron.
As in the season of _rutting_ (an uncouth phrase, by which the vulgar denote that gentle dalliance, which in the well-wooded[*] forest of Hampshire, passes between lovers of the ferine kind), if, while the lofty-crested stag meditates the amorous sport, a couple of puppies, or any other beasts of hostile note, should wander so near the temple of Venus Ferina that the fair hind should shrink from the place, touched with that somewhat, either of fear or frolic, of nicety or skittishness, with which nature hath bedecked all females, or hath at least instructed them how to put it on; lest, through the indelicacy of males, the Samean mysteries should be pryed into by unhallowed eyes: for, at the celebration of these rites, the female priestess cries out with her in Virgil (who was then, probably, hard at work on such celebration),
|_—Procul, o procul este, profani;|
|Proclamat vates, totoque absistite luco._|
|—Far hence be souls profane,|
|The sibyl cry'd, and from the grove abstain.—DRYDEN.|
|[*] This is an ambiguous phrase, and may mean either a forest well|
|cloathed with wood, or well stript of it.|
If, I say, while these sacred rites, which are in common to _genus omne animantium,_ are in agitation between the stag and his mistress, any hostile beasts should venture too near, on the first hint given by the frighted hind, fierce and tremendous rushes forth the stag to the entrance of the thicket; there stands he centinel over his love, stamps the ground with his foot, and with his horns brandished aloft in air, proudly provokes the apprehended foe to combat.
Thus, and more terrible, when he perceived the enemy's approach, leaped forth our heroe. Many a step advanced he forwards, in order to conceal the trembling hind, and, if possible, to secure her retreat. And now Thwackum, having first darted some livid lightning from his fiery eyes, began to thunder forth, "Fie upon it! Fie upon it! Mr Jones. Is it possible you should be the person?"—"You see," answered Jones, "it is possible I should be here."—"And who," said Thwackum, "is that wicked slut with you?"—"If I have any wicked slut with me," cries Jones, "it is possible I shall not let you know who she is."—"I command you to tell me immediately," says Thwackum: "and I would not have you imagine, young man, that your age, though it hath somewhat abridged the purpose of tuition, hath totally taken away the authority of the master. The relation of the master and scholar is indelible; as, indeed, all other relations are; for they all derive their original from heaven. I would have you think yourself, therefore, as much obliged to obey me now, as when I taught you your first rudiments."—"I believe you would," cries Jones; "but that will not happen, unless you had the same birchen argument to convince me."—"Then I must tell you plainly," said Thwackum, "I am resolved to discover the wicked wretch."—"And I must tell you plainly," returned Jones, "I am resolved you shall not." Thwackum then offered to advance, and Jones laid hold of his arms; which Mr Blifil endeavoured to rescue, declaring, "he would not see his old master insulted."
Jones now finding himself engaged with two, thought it necessary to rid himself of one of his antagonists as soon as possible. He therefore applied to the weakest first; and, letting the parson go, he directed a blow at the young squire's breast, which luckily taking place, reduced him to measure his length on the ground.
Thwackum was so intent on the discovery, that, the moment he found himself at liberty, he stept forward directly into the fern, without any great consideration of what might in the meantime befal his friend; but he had advanced a very few paces into the thicket, before Jones, having defeated Blifil, overtook the parson, and dragged him backward by the skirt of his coat.
This parson had been a champion in his youth, and had won much honour by his fist, both at school and at the university. He had now indeed, for a great number of years, declined the practice of that noble art; yet was his courage full as strong as his faith, and his body no less strong than either. He was moreover, as the reader may perhaps have conceived, somewhat irascible in his nature. When he looked back, therefore, and saw his friend stretched out on the ground, and found himself at the same time so roughly handled by one who had formerly been only passive in all conflicts between them (a circumstance which highly aggravated the whole), his patience at length gave way; he threw himself into a posture of offence; and collecting all his force, attacked Jones in the front with as much impetuosity as he had formerly attacked him in the rear.
Our heroe received the enemy's attack with the most undaunted intrepidity, and his bosom resounded with the blow. This he presently returned with no less violence, aiming likewise at the parson's breast; but he dexterously drove down the fist of Jones, so that it reached only his belly, where two pounds of beef and as many of pudding were then deposited, and whence consequently no hollow sound could proceed. Many lusty blows, much more pleasant as well as easy to have seen, than to read or describe, were given on both sides: at last a violent fall, in which Jones had thrown his knees into Thwackum's breast, so weakened the latter, that victory had been no longer dubious, had not Blifil, who had now recovered his strength, again renewed the fight, and by engaging with Jones, given the parson a moment's time to shake his ears, and to regain his breath.
And now both together attacked our heroe, whose blows did not retain that force with which they had fallen at first, so weakened was he by his combat with Thwackum; for though the pedagogue chose rather to play _solos_ on the human instrument, and had been lately used to those only, yet he still retained enough of his antient knowledge to perform his part very well in a _duet_.
The victory, according to modern custom, was like to be decided by numbers, when, on a sudden, a fourth pair of fists appeared in the battle, and immediately paid their compliments to the parson; and the owner of them at the same time crying out, "Are not you ashamed, and be d—n'd to you, to fall two of you upon one?"
The battle, which was of the kind that for distinction's sake is called royal, now raged with the utmost violence during a few minutes; till Blifil being a second time laid sprawling by Jones, Thwackum condescended to apply for quarter to his new antagonist, who was now found to be Mr Western himself; for in the heat of the action none of the combatants had recognized him.
In fact, that honest squire, happening, in his afternoon's walk with some company, to pass through the field where the bloody battle was fought, and having concluded, from seeing three men engaged, that two of them must be on a side, he hastened from his companions, and with more gallantry than policy, espoused the cause of the weaker party. By which generous proceeding he very probably prevented Mr Jones from becoming a victim to the wrath of Thwackum, and to the pious friendship which Blifil bore his old master; for, besides the disadvantage of such odds, Jones had not yet sufficiently recovered the former strength of his broken arm. This reinforcement, however, soon put an end to the action, and Jones with his ally obtained the victory.
In which is seen a more moving spectacle than all the blood in the bodies of Thwackum and Blifil, and of twenty other such, is capable of producing.
The rest of Mr Western's company were now come up, being just at the instant when the action was over. These were the honest clergyman, whom we have formerly seen at Mr Western's table; Mrs Western, the aunt of Sophia; and lastly, the lovely Sophia herself.
At this time, the following was the aspect of the bloody field. In one place lay on the ground, all pale, and almost breathless, the vanquished Blifil. Near him stood the conqueror Jones, almost covered with blood, part of which was naturally his own, and part had been lately the property of the Reverend Mr Thwackum. In a third place stood the said Thwackum, like King Porus, sullenly submitting to the conqueror. The last figure in the piece was Western the Great, most gloriously forbearing the vanquished foe.
Blifil, in whom there was little sign of life, was at first the principal object of the concern of every one, and particularly of Mrs Western, who had drawn from her pocket a bottle of hartshorn, and was herself about to apply it to his nostrils, when on a sudden the attention of the whole company was diverted from poor Blifil, whose spirit, if it had any such design, might have now taken an opportunity of stealing off to the other world, without any ceremony.
For now a more melancholy and a more lovely object lay motionless before them. This was no other than the charming Sophia herself, who, from the sight of blood, or from fear for her father, or from some other reason, had fallen down in a swoon, before any one could get to her assistance.
Mrs Western first saw her and screamed. Immediately two or three voices cried out, "Miss Western is dead." Hartshorn, water, every remedy was called for, almost at one and the same instant.
The reader may remember, that in our description of this grove we mentioned a murmuring brook, which brook did not come there, as such gentle streams flow through vulgar romances, with no other purpose than to murmur. No! Fortune had decreed to ennoble this little brook with a higher honour than any of those which wash the plains of Arcadia ever deserved.
Jones was rubbing Blifil's temples, for he began to fear he had given him a blow too much, when the words, Miss Western and Dead, rushed at once on his ear. He started up, left Blifil to his fate, and flew to Sophia, whom, while all the rest were running against each other, backward and forward, looking for water in the dry paths, he caught up in his arms, and then ran away with her over the field to the rivulet above mentioned; where, plunging himself into the water, he contrived to besprinkle her face, head, and neck very plentifully.
Happy was it for Sophia that the same confusion which prevented her other friends from serving her, prevented them likewise from obstructing Jones. He had carried her half ways before they knew what he was doing, and he had actually restored her to life before they reached the waterside. She stretched out her arms, opened her eyes, and cried, "Oh! heavens!" just as her father, aunt, and the parson came up.
Jones, who had hitherto held this lovely burthen in his arms, now relinquished his hold; but gave her at the same instant a tender caress, which, had her senses been then perfectly restored, could not have escaped her observation. As she expressed, therefore, no displeasure at this freedom, we suppose she was not sufficiently recovered from her swoon at the time.
This tragical scene was now converted into a sudden scene of joy. In this our heroe was certainly the principal character; for as he probably felt more ecstatic delight in having saved Sophia than she herself received from being saved, so neither were the congratulations paid to her equal to what were conferred on Jones, especially by Mr Western himself, who, after having once or twice embraced his daughter, fell to hugging and kissing Jones. He called him the preserver of Sophia, and declared there was nothing, except her, or his estate, which he would not give him; but upon recollection, he afterwards excepted his fox-hounds, the Chevalier, and Miss Slouch (for so he called his favourite mare).
All fears for Sophia being now removed, Jones became the object of the squire's consideration.—"Come, my lad," says Western, "d'off thy quoat and wash thy feace; for att in a devilish pickle, I promise thee. Come, come, wash thyself, and shat go huome with me; and we'l zee to vind thee another quoat."
Jones immediately complied, threw off his coat, went down to the water, and washed both his face and bosom; for the latter was as much exposed and as bloody as the former. But though the water could clear off the blood, it could not remove the black and blue marks which Thwackum had imprinted on both his face and breast, and which, being discerned by Sophia, drew from her a sigh and a look full of inexpressible tenderness.
Jones received this full in his eyes, and it had infinitely a stronger effect on him than all the contusions which he had received before. An effect, however, widely different; for so soft and balmy was it, that, had all his former blows been stabs, it would for some minutes have prevented his feeling their smart.
The company now moved backwards, and soon arrived where Thwackum had got Mr Blifil again on his legs. Here we cannot suppress a pious wish, that all quarrels were to be decided by those weapons only with which Nature, knowing what is proper for us, hath supplied us; and that cold iron was to be used in digging no bowels but those of the earth. Then would war, the pastime of monarchs, be almost inoffensive, and battles between great armies might be fought at the particular desire of several ladies of quality; who, together with the kings themselves, might be actual spectators of the conflict. Then might the field be this moment well strewed with human carcasses, and the next, the dead men, or infinitely the greatest part of them, might get up, like Mr Bayes's troops, and march off either at the sound of a drum or fiddle, as should be previously agreed on.
I would avoid, if possible, treating this matter ludicrously, lest grave men and politicians, whom I know to be offended at a jest, may cry pish at it; but, in reality, might not a battle be as well decided by the greater number of broken heads, bloody noses, and black eyes, as by the greater heaps of mangled and murdered human bodies? Might not towns be contended for in the same manner? Indeed, this may be thought too detrimental a scheme to the French interest, since they would thus lose the advantage they have over other nations in the superiority of their engineers; but when I consider the gallantry and generosity of that people, I am persuaded they would never decline putting themselves upon a par with their adversary; or, as the phrase is, making themselves his match.
But such reformations are rather to be wished than hoped for: I shall content myself, therefore, with this short hint, and return to my narrative.
Western began now to inquire into the original rise of this quarrel. To which neither Blifil nor Jones gave any answer; but Thwackum said surlily, "I believe the cause is not far off; if you beat the bushes well you may find her."—"Find her?" replied Western: "what! have you been fighting for a wench?"—"Ask the gentleman in his waistcoat there," said Thwackum: "he best knows." "Nay then," cries Western, "it is a wench certainly.—Ah, Tom, Tom, thou art a liquorish dog. But come, gentlemen, be all friends, and go home with me, and make final peace over a bottle." "I ask your pardon, sir," says Thwackum: "it is no such slight matter for a man of my character to be thus injuriously treated, and buffeted by a boy, only because I would have done my duty, in endeavouring to detect and bring to justice a wanton harlot; but, indeed, the principal fault lies in Mr Allworthy and yourself; for if you put the laws in execution, as you ought to do, you will soon rid the country of these vermin."
"I would as soon rid the country of foxes," cries Western. "I think we ought to encourage the recruiting those numbers which we are every day losing in the war.—But where is she? Prithee, Tom, show me." He then began to beat about, in the same language and in the same manner as if he had been beating for a hare; and at last cried out, "Soho! Puss is not far off. Here's her form, upon my soul; I believe I may cry stole away." And indeed so he might; for he had now discovered the place whence the poor girl had, at the beginning of the fray, stolen away, upon as many feet as a hare generally uses in travelling.
Sophia now desired her father to return home; saying she found herself very faint, and apprehended a relapse. The squire immediately complied with his daughter's request (for he was the fondest of parents). He earnestly endeavoured to prevail with the whole company to go and sup with him: but Blifil and Thwackum absolutely refused; the former saying, there were more reasons than he could then mention, why he must decline this honour; and the latter declaring (perhaps rightly) that it was not proper for a person of his function to be seen at any place in his present condition.
Jones was incapable of refusing the pleasure of being with his Sophia; so on he marched with Squire Western and his ladies, the parson bringing up the rear. This had, indeed, offered to tarry with his brother Thwackum, professing his regard for the cloth would not permit him to depart; but Thwackum would not accept the favour, and, with no great civility, pushed him after Mr Western.
Thus ended this bloody fray; and thus shall end the fifth book of this history.