READ STUDY GUIDE: Book VI
CONTAINING ABOUT THREE WEEKS.
In our last book we have been obliged to deal pretty much with the passion of love; and in our succeeding book shall be forced to handle this subject still more largely. It may not therefore in this place be improper to apply ourselves to the examination of that modern doctrine, by which certain philosophers, among many other wonderful discoveries, pretend to have found out, that there is no such passion in the human breast.
Whether these philosophers be the same with that surprising sect, who are honourably mentioned by the late Dr Swift, as having, by the mere force of genius alone, without the least assistance of any kind of learning, or even reading, discovered that profound and invaluable secret that there is no God; or whether they are not rather the same with those who some years since very much alarmed the world, by showing that there were no such things as virtue or goodness really existing in human nature, and who deduced our best actions from pride, I will not here presume to determine. In reality, I am inclined to suspect, that all these several finders of truth, are the very identical men who are by others called the finders of gold. The method used in both these searches after truth and after gold, being indeed one and the same, viz., the searching, rummaging, and examining into a nasty place; indeed, in the former instances, into the nastiest of all places, A BAD MIND.
But though in this particular, and perhaps in their success, the truth-finder and the gold-finder may very properly be compared together; yet in modesty, surely, there can be no comparison between the two; for who ever heard of a gold-finder that had the impudence or folly to assert, from the ill success of his search, that there was no such thing as gold in the world? whereas the truth-finder, having raked out that jakes, his own mind, and being there capable of tracing no ray of divinity, nor anything virtuous or good, or lovely, or loving, very fairly, honestly, and logically concludes that no such things exist in the whole creation.
To avoid, however, all contention, if possible, with these philosophers, if they will be called so; and to show our own disposition to accommodate matters peaceably between us, we shall here make them some concessions, which may possibly put an end to the dispute.
First, we will grant that many minds, and perhaps those of the philosophers, are entirely free from the least traces of such a passion.
Secondly, that what is commonly called love, namely, the desire of satisfying a voracious appetite with a certain quantity of delicate white human flesh, is by no means that passion for which I here contend. This is indeed more properly hunger; and as no glutton is ashamed to apply the word love to his appetite, and to say he LOVES such and such dishes; so may the lover of this kind, with equal propriety, say, he HUNGERS after such and such women.
Thirdly, I will grant, which I believe will be a most acceptable concession, that this love for which I am an advocate, though it satisfies itself in a much more delicate manner, doth nevertheless seek its own satisfaction as much as the grossest of all our appetites.
And, lastly, that this love, when it operates towards one of a different sex, is very apt, towards its complete gratification, to call in the aid of that hunger which I have mentioned above; and which it is so far from abating, that it heightens all its delights to a degree scarce imaginable by those who have never been susceptible of any other emotions than what have proceeded from appetite alone.
In return to all these concessions, I desire of the philosophers to grant, that there is in some (I believe in many) human breasts a kind and benevolent disposition, which is gratified by contributing to the happiness of others. That in this gratification alone, as in friendship, in parental and filial affection, as indeed in general philanthropy, there is a great and exquisite delight. That if we will not call such disposition love, we have no name for it. That though the pleasures arising from such pure love may be heightened and sweetened by the assistance of amorous desires, yet the former can subsist alone, nor are they destroyed by the intervention of the latter. Lastly, that esteem and gratitude are the proper motives to love, as youth and beauty are to desire, and, therefore, though such desire may naturally cease, when age or sickness overtakes its object; yet these can have no effect on love, nor ever shake or remove, from a good mind, that sensation or passion which hath gratitude and esteem for its basis.
To deny the existence of a passion of which we often see manifest instances, seems to be very strange and absurd; and can indeed proceed only from that self-admonition which we have mentioned above: but how unfair is this! Doth the man who recognizes in his own heart no traces of avarice or ambition, conclude, therefore, that there are no such passions in human nature? Why will we not modestly observe the same rule in judging of the good, as well as the evil of others? Or why, in any case, will we, as Shakespear phrases it, "put the world in our own person?"
Predominant vanity is, I am afraid, too much concerned here. This is one instance of that adulation which we bestow on our own minds, and this almost universally. For there is scarce any man, how much soever he may despise the character of a flatterer, but will condescend in the meanest manner to flatter himself.
To those therefore I apply for the truth of the above observations, whose own minds can bear testimony to what I have advanced.
Examine your heart, my good reader, and resolve whether you do believe these matters with me. If you do, you may now proceed to their exemplification in the following pages: if you do not, you have, I assure you, already read more than you have understood; and it would be wiser to pursue your business, or your pleasures (such as they are), than to throw away any more of your time in reading what you can neither taste nor comprehend. To treat of the effects of love to you, must be as absurd as to discourse on colours to a man born blind; since possibly your idea of love may be as absurd as that which we are told such blind man once entertained of the colour scarlet; that colour seemed to him to be very much like the sound of a trumpet: and love probably may, in your opinion, very greatly resemble a dish of soup, or a surloin of roast-beef.
The character of Mrs Western. Her great learning and knowledge of the world, and an instance of the deep penetration which she derived from those advantages.
The reader hath seen Mr Western, his sister, and daughter, with young Jones, and the parson, going together to Mr Western's house, where the greater part of the company spent the evening with much joy and festivity. Sophia was indeed the only grave person; for as to Jones, though love had now gotten entire possession of his heart, yet the pleasing reflection on Mr Allworthy's recovery, and the presence of his mistress, joined to some tender looks which she now and then could not refrain from giving him, so elevated our heroe, that he joined the mirth of the other three, who were perhaps as good-humoured people as any in the world.
Sophia retained the same gravity of countenance the next morning at breakfast; whence she retired likewise earlier than usual, leaving her father and aunt together. The squire took no notice of this change in his daughter's disposition. To say the truth, though he was somewhat of a politician, and had been twice a candidate in the country interest at an election, he was a man of no great observation. His sister was a lady of a different turn. She had lived about the court, and had seen the world. Hence she had acquired all that knowledge which the said world usually communicates; and was a perfect mistress of manners, customs, ceremonies, and fashions. Nor did her erudition stop here. She had considerably improved her mind by study; she had not only read all the modern plays, operas, oratorios, poems, and romances—in all which she was a critic; but had gone through Rapin's History of England, Eachard's Roman History, and many French _Memoires pour servir a l'Histoire_: to these she had added most of the political pamphlets and journals published within the last twenty years. From which she had attained a very competent skill in politics, and could discourse very learnedly on the affairs of Europe. She was, moreover, excellently well skilled in the doctrine of amour, and knew better than anybody who and who were together; a knowledge which she the more easily attained, as her pursuit of it was never diverted by any affairs of her own; for either she had no inclinations, or they had never been solicited; which last is indeed very probable; for her masculine person, which was near six foot high, added to her manner and learning, possibly prevented the other sex from regarding her, notwithstanding her petticoats, in the light of a woman. However, as she had considered the matter scientifically, she perfectly well knew, though she had never practised them, all the arts which fine ladies use when they desire to give encouragement, or to conceal liking, with all the long appendage of smiles, ogles, glances, &c., as they are at present practised in the beau-monde. To sum the whole, no species of disguise or affectation had escaped her notice; but as to the plain simple workings of honest nature, as she had never seen any such, she could know but little of them.
By means of this wonderful sagacity, Mrs Western had now, as she thought, made a discovery of something in the mind of Sophia. The first hint of this she took from the behaviour of the young lady in the field of battle; and the suspicion which she then conceived, was greatly corroborated by some observations which she had made that evening and the next morning. However, being greatly cautious to avoid being found in a mistake, she carried the secret a whole fortnight in her bosom, giving only some oblique hints, by simpering, winks, nods, and now and then dropping an obscure word, which indeed sufficiently alarmed Sophia, but did not at all affect her brother.
Being at length, however, thoroughly satisfied of the truth of her observation, she took an opportunity, one morning, when she was alone with her brother, to interrupt one of his whistles in the following manner:—
"Pray, brother, have you not observed something very extraordinary in my niece lately?"—"No, not I," answered Western; "is anything the matter with the girl?"—"I think there is," replied she; "and something of much consequence too."—"Why, she doth not complain of anything," cries Western; "and she hath had the small-pox."—"Brother," returned she, "girls are liable to other distempers besides the small-pox, and sometimes possibly to much worse." Here Western interrupted her with much earnestness, and begged her, if anything ailed his daughter, to acquaint him immediately; adding, "she knew he loved her more than his own soul, and that he would send to the world's end for the best physician to her." "Nay, nay," answered she, smiling, "the distemper is not so terrible; but I believe, brother, you are convinced I know the world, and I promise you I was never more deceived in my life, if my niece be not most desperately in love."—"How! in love!" cries Western, in a passion; "in love, without acquainting me! I'll disinherit her; I'll turn her out of doors, stark naked, without a farthing. Is all my kindness vor 'ur, and vondness o'ur come to this, to fall in love without asking me leave?"—"But you will not," answered Mrs Western, "turn this daughter, whom you love better than your own soul, out of doors, before you know whether you shall approve her choice. Suppose she should have fixed on the very person whom you yourself would wish, I hope you would not be angry then?"—"No, no," cries Western, "that would make a difference. If she marries the man I would ha' her, she may love whom she pleases, I shan't trouble my head about that." "That is spoken," answered the sister, "like a sensible man; but I believe the very person she hath chosen would be the very person you would choose for her. I will disclaim all knowledge of the world, if it is not so; and I believe, brother, you will allow I have some."—"Why, lookee, sister," said Western, "I do believe you have as much as any woman; and to be sure those are women's matters. You know I don't love to hear you talk about politics; they belong to us, and petticoats should not meddle: but come, who is the man?"—"Marry!" said she, "you may find him out yourself if you please. You, who are so great a politician, can be at no great loss. The judgment which can penetrate into the cabinets of princes, and discover the secret springs which move the great state wheels in all the political machines of Europe, must surely, with very little difficulty, find out what passes in the rude uninformed mind of a girl."—"Sister," cries the squire, "I have often warn'd you not to talk the court gibberish to me. I tell you, I don't understand the lingo: but I can read a journal, or the _London Evening Post._ Perhaps, indeed, there may be now and tan a verse which I can't make much of, because half the letters are left out; yet I know very well what is meant by that, and that our affairs don't go so well as they should do, because of bribery and corruption."—"I pity your country ignorance from my heart," cries the lady.—"Do you?" answered Western; "and I pity your town learning; I had rather be anything than a courtier, and a Presbyterian, and a Hanoverian too, as some people, I believe, are."—"If you mean me," answered she, "you know I am a woman, brother; and it signifies nothing what I am. Besides—"—"I do know you are a woman," cries the squire, "and it's well for thee that art one; if hadst been a man, I promise thee I had lent thee a flick long ago."—"Ay, there," said she, "in that flick lies all your fancied superiority. Your bodies, and not your brains, are stronger than ours. Believe me, it is well for you that you are able to beat us; or, such is the superiority of our understanding, we should make all of you what the brave, and wise, and witty, and polite are already—our slaves."—"I am glad I know your mind," answered the squire. "But we'll talk more of this matter another time. At present, do tell me what man is it you mean about my daughter?"—"Hold a moment," said she, "while I digest that sovereign contempt I have for your sex; or else I ought to be angry too with you. There—I have made a shift to gulp it down. And now, good politic sir, what think you of Mr Blifil? Did she not faint away on seeing him lie breathless on the ground? Did she not, after he was recovered, turn pale again the moment we came up to that part of the field where he stood? And pray what else should be the occasion of all her melancholy that night at supper, the next morning, and indeed ever since?"—"'Fore George!" cries the squire, "now you mind me on't, I remember it all. It is certainly so, and I am glad on't with all my heart. I knew Sophy was a good girl, and would not fall in love to make me angry. I was never more rejoiced in my life; for nothing can lie so handy together as our two estates. I had this matter in my head some time ago: for certainly the two estates are in a manner joined together in matrimony already, and it would be a thousand pities to part them. It is true, indeed, there be larger estates in the kingdom, but not in this county, and I had rather bate something, than marry my daughter among strangers and foreigners. Besides, most o' zuch great estates be in the hands of lords, and I heate the very name of _themmun_. Well but, sister, what would you advise me to do; for I tell you women know these matters better than we do?"—"Oh, your humble servant, sir," answered the lady: "we are obliged to you for allowing us a capacity in anything. Since you are pleased, then, most politic sir, to ask my advice, I think you may propose the match to Allworthy yourself. There is no indecorum in the proposal's coming from the parent of either side. King Alcinous, in Mr Pope's Odyssey, offers his daughter to Ulysses. I need not caution so politic a person not to say that your daughter is in love; that would indeed be against all rules."—"Well," said the squire, "I will propose it; but I shall certainly lend un a flick, if he should refuse me." "Fear not," cries Mrs Western; "the match is too advantageous to be refused." "I don't know that," answered the squire: "Allworthy is a queer b—ch, and money hath no effect o'un." "Brother," said the lady, "your politics astonish me. Are you really to be imposed on by professions? Do you think Mr Allworthy hath more contempt for money than other men because he professes more? Such credulity would better become one of us weak women, than that wise sex which heaven hath formed for politicians. Indeed, brother, you would make a fine plenipo to negotiate with the French. They would soon persuade you, that they take towns out of mere defensive principles." "Sister," answered the squire, with much scorn, "let your friends at court answer for the towns taken; as you are a woman, I shall lay no blame upon you; for I suppose they are wiser than to trust women with secrets." He accompanied this with so sarcastical a laugh, that Mrs Western could bear no longer. She had been all this time fretted in a tender part (for she was indeed very deeply skilled in these matters, and very violent in them), and therefore, burst forth in a rage, declared her brother to be both a clown and a blockhead, and that she would stay no longer in his house.
The squire, though perhaps he had never read Machiavel, was, however, in many points, a perfect politician. He strongly held all those wise tenets, which are so well inculcated in that Politico-Peripatetic school of Exchange-alley. He knew the just value and only use of money, viz., to lay it up. He was likewise well skilled in the exact value of reversions, expectations, &c., and had often considered the amount of his sister's fortune, and the chance which he or his posterity had of inheriting it. This he was infinitely too wise to sacrifice to a trifling resentment. When he found, therefore, he had carried matters too far, he began to think of reconciling them; which was no very difficult task, as the lady had great affection for her brother, and still greater for her niece; and though too susceptible of an affront offered to her skill in politics, on which she much valued herself, was a woman of a very extraordinary good and sweet disposition.
Having first, therefore, laid violent hands on the horses, for whose escape from the stable no place but the window was left open, he next applied himself to his sister; softened and soothed her, by unsaying all he had said, and by assertions directly contrary to those which had incensed her. Lastly, he summoned the eloquence of Sophia to his assistance, who, besides a most graceful and winning address, had the advantage of being heard with great favour and partiality by her aunt.
The result of the whole was a kind smile from Mrs Western, who said, "Brother, you are absolutely a perfect Croat; but as those have their use in the army of the empress queen, so you likewise have some good in you. I will therefore once more sign a treaty of peace with you, and see that you do not infringe it on your side; at least, as you are so excellent a politician, I may expect you will keep your leagues, like the French, till your interest calls upon you to break them."
Containing two defiances to the critics.
The squire having settled matters with his sister, as we have seen in the last chapter, was so greatly impatient to communicate the proposal to Allworthy, that Mrs Western had the utmost difficulty to prevent him from visiting that gentleman in his sickness, for this purpose.
Mr Allworthy had been engaged to dine with Mr Western at the time when he was taken ill. He was therefore no sooner discharged out of the custody of physic, but he thought (as was usual with him on all occasions, both the highest and the lowest) of fulfilling his engagement.
In the interval between the time of the dialogue in the last chapter, and this day of public entertainment, Sophia had, from certain obscure hints thrown out by her aunt, collected some apprehension that the sagacious lady suspected her passion for Jones. She now resolved to take this opportunity of wiping out all such suspicion, and for that purpose to put an entire constraint on her behaviour.
First, she endeavoured to conceal a throbbing melancholy heart with the utmost sprightliness in her countenance, and the highest gaiety in her manner. Secondly, she addressed her whole discourse to Mr Blifil, and took not the least notice of poor Jones the whole day.
The squire was so delighted with this conduct of his daughter, that he scarce eat any dinner, and spent almost his whole time in watching opportunities of conveying signs of his approbation by winks and nods to his sister; who was not at first altogether so pleased with what she saw as was her brother.
In short, Sophia so greatly overacted her part, that her aunt was at first staggered, and began to suspect some affectation in her niece; but as she was herself a woman of great art, so she soon attributed this to extreme art in Sophia. She remembered the many hints she had given her niece concerning her being in love, and imagined the young lady had taken this way to rally her out of her opinion, by an overacted civility: a notion that was greatly corroborated by the excessive gaiety with which the whole was accompanied. We cannot here avoid remarking, that this conjecture would have been better founded had Sophia lived ten years in the air of Grosvenor Square, where young ladies do learn a wonderful knack of rallying and playing with that passion, which is a mighty serious thing in woods and groves an hundred miles distant from London.
To say the truth, in discovering the deceit of others, it matters much that our own art be wound up, if I may use the expression, in the same key with theirs: for very artful men sometimes miscarry by fancying others wiser, or, in other words, greater knaves, than they really are. As this observation is pretty deep, I will illustrate it by the following short story. Three countrymen were pursuing a Wiltshire thief through Brentford. The simplest of them seeing "The Wiltshire House," written under a sign, advised his companions to enter it, for there most probably they would find their countryman. The second, who was wiser, laughed at this simplicity; but the third, who was wiser still, answered, "Let us go in, however, for he may think we should not suspect him of going amongst his own countrymen." They accordingly went in and searched the house, and by that means missed overtaking the thief, who was at that time but a little way before them; and who, as they all knew, but had never once reflected, could not read.
The reader will pardon a digression in which so invaluable a secret is communicated, since every gamester will agree how necessary it is to know exactly the play of another, in order to countermine him. This will, moreover, afford a reason why the wiser man, as is often seen, is the bubble of the weaker, and why many simple and innocent characters are so generally misunderstood and misrepresented; but what is most material, this will account for the deceit which Sophia put on her politic aunt.
Dinner being ended, and the company retired into the garden, Mr Western, who was thoroughly convinced of the certainty of what his sister had told him, took Mr Allworthy aside, and very bluntly proposed a match between Sophia and young Mr Blifil.
Mr Allworthy was not one of those men whose hearts flutter at any unexpected and sudden tidings of worldly profit. His mind was, indeed, tempered with that philosophy which becomes a man and a Christian. He affected no absolute superiority to all pleasure and pain, to all joy and grief; but was not at the same time to be discomposed and ruffled by every accidental blast, by every smile or frown of fortune. He received, therefore, Mr Western's proposal without any visible emotion, or without any alteration of countenance. He said the alliance was such as he sincerely wished; then launched forth into a very just encomium on the young lady's merit; acknowledged the offer to be advantageous in point of fortune; and after thanking Mr Western for the good opinion he had professed of his nephew, concluded, that if the young people liked each other, he should be very desirous to complete the affair.
Western was a little disappointed at Mr Allworthy's answer, which was not so warm as he expected. He treated the doubt whether the young people might like one another with great contempt, saying, "That parents were the best judges of proper matches for their children: that for his part he should insist on the most resigned obedience from his daughter: and if any young fellow could refuse such a bed-fellow, he was his humble servant, and hoped there was no harm done."
Allworthy endeavoured to soften this resentment by many eulogiums on Sophia, declaring he had no doubt but that Mr Blifil would very gladly receive the offer; but all was ineffectual; he could obtain no other answer from the squire but—"I say no more—I humbly hope there's no harm done—that's all." Which words he repeated at least a hundred times before they parted.
Allworthy was too well acquainted with his neighbour to be offended at this behaviour; and though he was so averse to the rigour which some parents exercise on their children in the article of marriage, that he had resolved never to force his nephew's inclinations, he was nevertheless much pleased with the prospect of this union; for the whole country resounded the praises of Sophia, and he had himself greatly admired the uncommon endowments of both her mind and person.
To which I believe we may add, the consideration of her vast fortune, which, though he was too sober to be intoxicated with it, he was too sensible to despise.
And here, in defiance of all the barking critics in the world, I must and will introduce a digression concerning true wisdom, of which Mr Allworthy was in reality as great a pattern as he was of goodness.
True wisdom then, notwithstanding all which Mr Hogarth's poor poet may have writ against riches, and in spite of all which any rich well-fed divine may have preached against pleasure, consists not in the contempt of either of these. A man may have as much wisdom in the possession of an affluent fortune, as any beggar in the streets; or may enjoy a handsome wife or a hearty friend, and still remain as wise as any sour popish recluse, who buries all his social faculties, and starves his belly while he well lashes his back.
To say truth, the wisest man is the likeliest to possess all worldly blessings in an eminent degree; for as that moderation which wisdom prescribes is the surest way to useful wealth, so can it alone qualify us to taste many pleasures. The wise man gratifies every appetite and every passion, while the fool sacrifices all the rest to pall and satiate one.
It may be objected, that very wise men have been notoriously avaricious. I answer, Not wise in that instance. It may likewise be said, That the wisest men have been in their youth immoderately fond of pleasure. I answer, They were not wise then.
Wisdom, in short, whose lessons have been represented as so hard to learn by those who never were at her school, only teaches us to extend a simple maxim universally known and followed even in the lowest life, a little farther than that life carries it. And this is, not to buy at too dear a price.
Now, whoever takes this maxim abroad with him into the grand market of the world, and constantly applies it to honours, to riches, to pleasures, and to every other commodity which that market affords, is, I will venture to affirm, a wise man, and must be so acknowledged in the worldly sense of the word; for he makes the best of bargains, since in reality he purchases everything at the price only of a little trouble, and carries home all the good things I have mentioned, while he keeps his health, his innocence, and his reputation, the common prices which are paid for them by others, entire and to himself.
From this moderation, likewise, he learns two other lessons, which complete his character. First, never to be intoxicated when he hath made the best bargain, nor dejected when the market is empty, or when its commodities are too dear for his purchase.
But I must remember on what subject I am writing, and not trespass too far on the patience of a good-natured critic. Here, therefore, I put an end to the chapter.
Containing sundry curious matters.
As soon as Mr Allworthy returned home, he took Mr Blifil apart, and after some preface, communicated to him the proposal which had been made by Mr Western, and at the same time informed him how agreeable this match would be to himself.
The charms of Sophia had not made the least impression on Blifil; not that his heart was pre-engaged; neither was he totally insensible of beauty, or had any aversion to women; but his appetites were by nature so moderate, that he was able, by philosophy, or by study, or by some other method, easily to subdue them: and as to that passion which we have treated of in the first chapter of this book, he had not the least tincture of it in his whole composition.
But though he was so entirely free from that mixed passion, of which we there treated, and of which the virtues and beauty of Sophia formed so notable an object; yet was he altogether as well furnished with some other passions, that promised themselves very full gratification in the young lady's fortune. Such were avarice and ambition, which divided the dominion of his mind between them. He had more than once considered the possession of this fortune as a very desirable thing, and had entertained some distant views concerning it; but his own youth, and that of the young lady, and indeed principally a reflection that Mr Western might marry again, and have more children, had restrained him from too hasty or eager a pursuit.
This last and most material objection was now in great measure removed, as the proposal came from Mr Western himself. Blifil, therefore, after a very short hesitation, answered Mr Allworthy, that matrimony was a subject on which he had not yet thought; but that he was so sensible of his friendly and fatherly care, that he should in all things submit himself to his pleasure.
Allworthy was naturally a man of spirit, and his present gravity arose from true wisdom and philosophy, not from any original phlegm in his disposition; for he had possessed much fire in his youth, and had married a beautiful woman for love. He was not therefore greatly pleased with this cold answer of his nephew; nor could he help launching forth into the praises of Sophia, and expressing some wonder that the heart of a young man could be impregnable to the force of such charms, unless it was guarded by some prior affection.
Blifil assured him he had no such guard; and then proceeded to discourse so wisely and religiously on love and marriage, that he would have stopt the mouth of a parent much less devoutly inclined than was his uncle. In the end, the good man was satisfied that his nephew, far from having any objections to Sophia, had that esteem for her, which in sober and virtuous minds is the sure foundation of friendship and love. And as he doubted not but the lover would, in a little time, become altogether as agreeable to his mistress, he foresaw great happiness arising to all parties by so proper and desirable an union. With Mr Blifil's consent therefore he wrote the next morning to Mr Western, acquainting him that his nephew had very thankfully and gladly received the proposal, and would be ready to wait on the young lady, whenever she should be pleased to accept his visit.
Western was much pleased with this letter, and immediately returned an answer; in which, without having mentioned a word to his daughter, he appointed that very afternoon for opening the scene of courtship.
As soon as he had dispatched this messenger, he went in quest of his sister, whom he found reading and expounding the _Gazette_ to parson Supple. To this exposition he was obliged to attend near a quarter of an hour, though with great violence to his natural impetuosity, before he was suffered to speak. At length, however, he found an opportunity of acquainting the lady, that he had business of great consequence to impart to her; to which she answered, "Brother, I am entirely at your service. Things look so well in the north, that I was never in a better humour."
The parson then withdrawing, Western acquainted her with all which had passed, and desired her to communicate the affair to Sophia, which she readily and chearfully undertook; though perhaps her brother was a little obliged to that agreeable northern aspect which had so delighted her, that he heard no comment on his proceedings; for they were certainly somewhat too hasty and violent.
In which is related what passed between Sophia and her aunt.
Sophia was in her chamber, reading, when her aunt came in. The moment she saw Mrs Western, she shut the book with so much eagerness, that the good lady could not forbear asking her, What book that was which she seemed so much afraid of showing? "Upon my word, madam," answered Sophia, "it is a book which I am neither ashamed nor afraid to own I have read. It is the production of a young lady of fashion, whose good understanding, I think, doth honour to her sex, and whose good heart is an honour to human nature." Mrs Western then took up the book, and immediately after threw it down, saying—"Yes, the author is of a very good family; but she is not much among people one knows. I have never read it; for the best judges say, there is not much in it."—"I dare not, madam, set up my own opinion," says Sophia, "against the best judges, but there appears to me a great deal of human nature in it; and in many parts so much true tenderness and delicacy, that it hath cost me many a tear."—"Ay, and do you love to cry then?" says the aunt. "I love a tender sensation," answered the niece, "and would pay the price of a tear for it at any time."—"Well, but show me," said the aunt, "what was you reading when I came in; there was something very tender in that, I believe, and very loving too. You blush, my dear Sophia. Ah! child, you should read books which would teach you a little hypocrisy, which would instruct you how to hide your thoughts a little better."—"I hope, madam," answered Sophia, "I have no thoughts which I ought to be ashamed of discovering."—"Ashamed! no," cries the aunt, "I don't think you have any thoughts which you ought to be ashamed of; and yet, child, you blushed just now when I mentioned the word loving. Dear Sophy, be assured you have not one thought which I am not well acquainted with; as well, child, as the French are with our motions, long before we put them in execution. Did you think, child, because you have been able to impose upon your father, that you could impose upon me? Do you imagine I did not know the reason of your overacting all that friendship for Mr Blifil yesterday? I have seen a little too much of the world, to be so deceived. Nay, nay, do not blush again. I tell you it is a passion you need not be ashamed of. It is a passion I myself approve, and have already brought your father into the approbation of it. Indeed, I solely consider your inclination; for I would always have that gratified, if possible, though one may sacrifice higher prospects. Come, I have news which will delight your very soul. Make me your confident, and I will undertake you shall be happy to the very extent of your wishes." "La, madam," says Sophia, looking more foolishly than ever she did in her life, "I know not what to say—why, madam, should you suspect?"—"Nay, no dishonesty," returned Mrs Western. "Consider, you are speaking to one of your own sex, to an aunt, and I hope you are convinced you speak to a friend. Consider, you are only revealing to me what I know already, and what I plainly saw yesterday, through that most artful of all disguises, which you had put on, and which must have deceived any one who had not perfectly known the world. Lastly, consider it is a passion which I highly approve." "La, madam," says Sophia, "you come upon one so unawares, and on a sudden. To be sure, madam, I am not blind—and certainly, if it be a fault to see all human perfections assembled together—but is it possible my father and you, madam, can see with my eyes?" "I tell you," answered the aunt, "we do entirely approve; and this very afternoon your father hath appointed for you to receive your lover." "My father, this afternoon!" cries Sophia, with the blood starting from her face.—"Yes, child," said the aunt, "this afternoon. You know the impetuosity of my brother's temper. I acquainted him with the passion which I first discovered in you that evening when you fainted away in the field. I saw it in your fainting. I saw it immediately upon your recovery. I saw it that evening at supper, and the next morning at breakfast (you know, child, I have seen the world). Well, I no sooner acquainted my brother, but he immediately wanted to propose it to Allworthy. He proposed it yesterday, Allworthy consented (as to be sure he must with joy), and this afternoon, I tell you, you are to put on all your best airs." "This afternoon!" cries Sophia. "Dear aunt, you frighten me out of my senses." "O, my dear," said the aunt, "you will soon come to yourself again; for he is a charming young fellow, that's the truth on't." "Nay, I will own," says Sophia, "I know none with such perfections. So brave, and yet so gentle; so witty, yet so inoffensive; so humane, so civil, so genteel, so handsome! What signifies his being base born, when compared with such qualifications as these?" "Base born? What do you mean?" said the aunt, "Mr Blifil base born!" Sophia turned instantly pale at this name, and faintly repeated it. Upon which the aunt cried, "Mr Blifil—ay, Mr Blifil, of whom else have we been talking?" "Good heavens," answered Sophia, ready to sink, "of Mr Jones, I thought; I am sure I know no other who deserves—" "I protest," cries the aunt, "you frighten me in your turn. Is it Mr Jones, and not Mr Blifil, who is the object of your affection?" "Mr Blifil!" repeated Sophia. "Sure it is impossible you can be in earnest; if you are, I am the most miserable woman alive." Mrs Western now stood a few moments silent, while sparks of fiery rage flashed from her eyes. At length, collecting all her force of voice, she thundered forth in the following articulate sounds:
"And is it possible you can think of disgracing your family by allying yourself to a bastard? Can the blood of the Westerns submit to such contamination? If you have not sense sufficient to restrain such monstrous inclinations, I thought the pride of our family would have prevented you from giving the least encouragement to so base an affection; much less did I imagine you would ever have had the assurance to own it to my face."
"Madam," answered Sophia, trembling, "what I have said you have extorted from me. I do not remember to have ever mentioned the name of Mr Jones with approbation to any one before; nor should I now had I not conceived he had your approbation. Whatever were my thoughts of that poor, unhappy young man, I intended to have carried them with me to my grave—to that grave where only now, I find, I am to seek repose." Here she sunk down in her chair, drowned in her tears, and, in all the moving silence of unutterable grief, presented a spectacle which must have affected almost the hardest heart.
All this tender sorrow, however, raised no compassion in her aunt. On the contrary, she now fell into the most violent rage.—"And I would rather," she cried, in a most vehement voice, "follow you to your grave, than I would see you disgrace yourself and your family by such a match. O Heavens! could I have ever suspected that I should live to hear a niece of mine declare a passion for such a fellow? You are the first—yes, Miss Western, you are the first of your name who ever entertained so grovelling a thought. A family so noted for the prudence of its women"—here she ran on a full quarter of an hour, till, having exhausted her breath rather than her rage, she concluded with threatening to go immediately and acquaint her brother.
Sophia then threw herself at her feet, and laying hold of her hands, begged her with tears to conceal what she had drawn from her; urging the violence of her father's temper, and protesting that no inclinations of hers should ever prevail with her to do anything which might offend him.
Mrs Western stood a moment looking at her, and then, having recollected herself, said, "That on one consideration only she would keep the secret from her brother; and this was, that Sophia should promise to entertain Mr Blifil that very afternoon as her lover, and to regard him as the person who was to be her husband."
Poor Sophia was too much in her aunt's power to deny her anything positively; she was obliged to promise that she would see Mr Blifil, and be as civil to him as possible; but begged her aunt that the match might not be hurried on. She said, "Mr Blifil was by no means agreeable to her, and she hoped her father would be prevailed on not to make her the most wretched of women."
Mrs Western assured her, "That the match was entirely agreed upon, and that nothing could or should prevent it. I must own," said she, "I looked on it as on a matter of indifference; nay, perhaps, had some scruples about it before, which were actually got over by my thinking it highly agreeable to your own inclinations; but now I regard it as the most eligible thing in the world: nor shall there be, if I can prevent it, a moment of time lost on the occasion."
Sophia replied, "Delay at least, madam, I may expect from both your goodness and my father's. Surely you will give me time to endeavour to get the better of so strong a disinclination as I have at present to this person."
The aunt answered, "She knew too much of the world to be so deceived; that as she was sensible another man had her affections, she should persuade Mr Western to hasten the match as much as possible. It would be bad politics, indeed," added she, "to protract a siege when the enemy's army is at hand, and in danger of relieving it. No, no, Sophy," said she, "as I am convinced you have a violent passion which you can never satisfy with honour, I will do all I can to put your honour out of the care of your family: for when you are married those matters will belong only to the consideration of your husband. I hope, child, you will always have prudence enough to act as becomes you; but if you should not, marriage hath saved many a woman from ruin."
Sophia well understood what her aunt meant; but did not think proper to make her an answer. However, she took a resolution to see Mr Blifil, and to behave to him as civilly as she could, for on that condition only she obtained a promise from her aunt to keep secret the liking which her ill fortune, rather than any scheme of Mrs Western, had unhappily drawn from her.
Containing a dialogue between Sophia and Mrs Honour, which may a little relieve those tender affections which the foregoing scene may have raised in the mind of a good-natured reader.
Mrs Western having obtained that promise from her niece which we have seen in the last chapter, withdrew; and presently after arrived Mrs Honour. She was at work in a neighbouring apartment, and had been summoned to the keyhole by some vociferation in the preceding dialogue, where she had continued during the remaining part of it. At her entry into the room, she found Sophia standing motionless, with the tears trickling from her eyes. Upon which she immediately ordered a proper quantity of tears into her own eyes, and then began, "O Gemini, my dear lady, what is the matter?"—"Nothing," cries Sophia. "Nothing! O dear Madam!" answers Honour, "you must not tell me that, when your ladyship is in this taking, and when there hath been such a preamble between your ladyship and Madam Western."—"Don't teaze me," cries Sophia; "I tell you nothing is the matter. Good heavens! why was I born?"—"Nay, madam," says Mrs Honour, "you shall never persuade me that your la'ship can lament yourself so for nothing. To be sure I am but a servant; but to be sure I have been always faithful to your la'ship, and to be sure I would serve your la'ship with my life."—"My dear Honour," says Sophia, "'tis not in thy power to be of any service to me. I am irretrievably undone."—"Heaven forbid!" answered the waiting-woman; "but if I can't be of any service to you, pray tell me, madam—it will be some comfort to me to know—pray, dear ma'am, tell me what's the matter."—"My father," cries Sophia, "is going to marry me to a man I both despise and hate."—"O dear, ma'am," answered the other, "who is this wicked man? for to be sure he is very bad, or your la'ship would not despise him."—"His name is poison to my tongue," replied Sophia: "thou wilt know it too soon." Indeed, to confess the truth, she knew it already, and therefore was not very inquisitive as to that point. She then proceeded thus: "I don't pretend to give your la'ship advice, whereof your la'ship knows much better than I can pretend to, being but a servant; but, i-fackins! no father in England should marry me against my consent. And, to be sure, the 'squire is so good, that if he did but know your la'ship despises and hates the young man, to be sure he would not desire you to marry him. And if your la'ship would but give me leave to tell my master so. To be sure, it would be more properer to come from your own mouth; but as your la'ship doth not care to foul your tongue with his nasty name—"—"You are mistaken, Honour," says Sophia; "my father was determined before he ever thought fit to mention it to me."—"More shame for him," cries Honour: "you are to go to bed to him, and not master: and thof a man may be a very proper man, yet every woman mayn't think him handsome alike. I am sure my master would never act in this manner of his own head. I wish some people would trouble themselves only with what belongs to them; they would not, I believe, like to be served so, if it was their own case; for though I am a maid, I can easily believe as how all men are not equally agreeable. And what signifies your la'ship having so great a fortune, if you can't please yourself with the man you think most handsomest? Well, I say nothing; but to be sure it is a pity some folks had not been better born; nay, as for that matter, I should not mind it myself; but then there is not so much money; and what of that? your la'ship hath money enough for both; and where can your la'ship bestow your fortune better? for to be sure every one must allow that he is the most handsomest, charmingest, finest, tallest, properest man in the world."—"What do you mean by running on in this manner to me?" cries Sophia, with a very grave countenance. "Have I ever given any encouragement for these liberties?"—"Nay, ma'am, I ask pardon; I meant no harm," answered she; "but to be sure the poor gentleman hath run in my head ever since I saw him this morning. To be sure, if your la'ship had but seen him just now, you must have pitied him. Poor gentleman! I wishes some misfortune hath not happened to him; for he hath been walking about with his arms across, and looking so melancholy, all this morning: I vow and protest it made me almost cry to see him."—"To see whom?" says Sophia. "Poor Mr Jones," answered Honour. "See him! why, where did you see him?" cries Sophia. "By the canal, ma'am," says Honour. "There he hath been walking all this morning, and at last there he laid himself down: I believe he lies there still. To be sure, if it had not been for my modesty, being a maid, as I am, I should have gone and spoke to him. Do, ma'am, let me go and see, only for a fancy, whether he is there still."—"Pugh!" says Sophia. "There! no, no: what should he do there? He is gone before this time, to be sure. Besides, why—what—why should you go to see? besides, I want you for something else. Go, fetch me my hat and gloves. I shall walk with my aunt in the grove before dinner." Honour did immediately as she was bid, and Sophia put her hat on; when, looking in the glass, she fancied the ribbon with which her hat was tied did not become her, and so sent her maid back again for a ribbon of a different colour; and then giving Mrs Honour repeated charges not to leave her work on any account, as she said it was in violent haste, and must be finished that very day, she muttered something more about going to the grove, and then sallied out the contrary way, and walked, as fast as her tender trembling limbs could carry her, directly towards the canal.
Jones had been there as Mrs Honour had told her; he had indeed spent two hours there that morning in melancholy contemplation on his Sophia, and had gone out from the garden at one door the moment she entered it at another. So that those unlucky minutes which had been spent in changing the ribbons, had prevented the lovers from meeting at this time;—a most unfortunate accident, from which my fair readers will not fail to draw a very wholesome lesson. And here I strictly forbid all male critics to intermeddle with a circumstance which I have recounted only for the sake of the ladies, and upon which they only are at liberty to comment.
A picture of formal courtship in miniature, as it always ought to be drawn, and a scene of a tenderer kind painted at full length.
It was well remarked by one (and perhaps by more), that misfortunes do not come single. This wise maxim was now verified by Sophia, who was not only disappointed of seeing the man she loved, but had the vexation of being obliged to dress herself out, in order to receive a visit from the man she hated.
That afternoon Mr Western, for the first time, acquainted his daughter with his intention; telling her, he knew very well that she had heard it before from her aunt. Sophia looked very grave upon this, nor could she prevent a few pearls from stealing into her eyes. "Come, come," says Western, "none of your maidenish airs; I know all; I assure you sister hath told me all."
"Is it possible," says Sophia, "that my aunt can have betrayed me already?"—"Ay, ay," says Western; "betrayed you! ay. Why, you betrayed yourself yesterday at dinner. You showed your fancy very plainly, I think. But you young girls never know what you would be at. So you cry because I am going to marry you to the man you are in love with! Your mother, I remember, whimpered and whined just in the same manner; but it was all over within twenty-four hours after we were married: Mr Blifil is a brisk young man, and will soon put an end to your squeamishness. Come, chear up, chear up; I expect un every minute."
Sophia was now convinced that her aunt had behaved honourably to her: and she determined to go through that disagreeable afternoon with as much resolution as possible, and without giving the least suspicion in the world to her father.
Mr Blifil soon arrived; and Mr Western soon after withdrawing, left the young couple together.
Here a long silence of near a quarter of an hour ensued; for the gentleman who was to begin the conversation had all the unbecoming modesty which consists in bashfulness. He often attempted to speak, and as often suppressed his words just at the very point of utterance. At last out they broke in a torrent of far-fetched and high-strained compliments, which were answered on her side by downcast looks, half bows, and civil monosyllables. Blifil, from his inexperience in the ways of women, and from his conceit of himself, took this behaviour for a modest assent to his courtship; and when, to shorten a scene which she could no longer support, Sophia rose up and left the room, he imputed that, too, merely to bashfulness, and comforted himself that he should soon have enough of her company.
He was indeed perfectly well satisfied with his prospect of success; for as to that entire and absolute possession of the heart of his mistress which romantic lovers require, the very idea of it never entered his head. Her fortune and her person were the sole objects of his wishes, of which he made no doubt soon to obtain the absolute property; as Mr Western's mind was so earnestly bent on the match; and as he well knew the strict obedience which Sophia was always ready to pay to her father's will, and the greater still which her father would exact, if there was occasion. This authority, therefore, together with the charms which he fancied in his own person and conversation, could not fail, he thought, of succeeding with a young lady, whose inclinations were, he doubted not, entirely disengaged.
Of Jones he certainly had not even the least jealousy; and I have often thought it wonderful that he had not. Perhaps he imagined the character which Jones bore all over the country (how justly, let the reader determine), of being one of the wildest fellows in England, might render him odious to a lady of the most exemplary modesty. Perhaps his suspicions might be laid asleep by the behaviour of Sophia, and of Jones himself, when they were all in company together. Lastly, and indeed principally, he was well assured there was not another self in the case. He fancied that he knew Jones to the bottom, and had in reality a great contempt for his understanding, for not being more attached to his own interest. He had no apprehension that Jones was in love with Sophia; and as for any lucrative motives, he imagined they would sway very little with so silly a fellow. Blifil, moreover, thought the affair of Molly Seagrim still went on, and indeed believed it would end in marriage; for Jones really loved him from his childhood, and had kept no secret from him, till his behaviour on the sickness of Mr Allworthy had entirely alienated his heart; and it was by means of the quarrel which had ensued on this occasion, and which was not yet reconciled, that Mr Blifil knew nothing of the alteration which had happened in the affection which Jones had formerly borne towards Molly.
From these reasons, therefore, Mr Blifil saw no bar to his success with Sophia. He concluded her behaviour was like that of all other young ladies on a first visit from a lover, and it had indeed entirely answered his expectations.
Mr Western took care to way-lay the lover at his exit from his mistress. He found him so elevated with his success, so enamoured with his daughter, and so satisfied with her reception of him, that the old gentleman began to caper and dance about his hall, and by many other antic actions to express the extravagance of his joy; for he had not the least command over any of his passions; and that which had at any time the ascendant in his mind hurried him to the wildest excesses.
As soon as Blifil was departed, which was not till after many hearty kisses and embraces bestowed on him by Western, the good squire went instantly in quest of his daughter, whom he no sooner found than he poured forth the most extravagant raptures, bidding her chuse what clothes and jewels she pleased; and declaring that he had no other use for fortune but to make her happy. He then caressed her again and again with the utmost profusion of fondness, called her by the most endearing names, and protested she was his only joy on earth.
Sophia perceiving her father in this fit of affection, which she did not absolutely know the reason of (for fits of fondness were not unusual to him, though this was rather more violent than ordinary), thought she should never have a better opportunity of disclosing herself than at present, as far at least as regarded Mr Blifil; and she too well foresaw the necessity which she should soon be under of coming to a full explanation. After having thanked the squire, therefore, for all his professions of kindness, she added, with a look full of inexpressible softness, "And is it possible my papa can be so good to place all his joy in his Sophy's happiness?" which Western having confirmed by a great oath, and a kiss; she then laid hold of his hand, and, falling on her knees, after many warm and passionate declarations of affection and duty, she begged him "not to make her the most miserable creature on earth by forcing her to marry a man whom she detested. This I entreat of you, dear sir," said she, "for your sake, as well as my own, since you are so very kind to tell me your happiness depends on mine."—"How! what!" says Western, staring wildly. "Oh! sir," continued she, "not only your poor Sophy's happiness; her very life, her being, depends upon your granting her request. I cannot live with Mr Blifil. To force me into this marriage would be killing me."—"You can't live with Mr Blifil?" says Western. "No, upon my soul I can't," answered Sophia. "Then die and be d—d," cries he, spurning her from him. "Oh! sir," cries Sophia, catching hold of the skirt of his coat, "take pity on me, I beseech you. Don't look and say such cruel—Can you be unmoved while you see your Sophy in this dreadful condition? Can the best of fathers break my heart? Will he kill me by the most painful, cruel, lingering death?"—"Pooh! pooh!" cries the squire; "all stuff and nonsense; all maidenish tricks. Kill you, indeed! Will marriage kill you?"—"Oh! sir," answered Sophia, "such a marriage is worse than death. He is not even indifferent; I hate and detest him."—"If you detest un never so much," cries Western, "you shall ha'un." This he bound by an oath too shocking to repeat; and after many violent asseverations, concluded in these words: "I am resolved upon the match, and unless you consent to it I will not give you a groat, not a single farthing; no, though I saw you expiring with famine in the street, I would not relieve you with a morsel of bread. This is my fixed resolution, and so I leave you to consider on it." He then broke from her with such violence, that her face dashed against the floor; and he burst directly out of the room, leaving poor Sophia prostrate on the ground.
When Western came into the hall, he there found Jones; who seeing his friend looking wild, pale, and almost breathless, could not forbear enquiring the reason of all these melancholy appearances. Upon which the squire immediately acquainted him with the whole matter, concluding with bitter denunciations against Sophia, and very pathetic lamentations of the misery of all fathers who are so unfortunate to have daughters.
Jones, to whom all the resolutions which had been taken in favour of Blifil were yet a secret, was at first almost struck dead with this relation; but recovering his spirits a little, mere despair, as he afterwards said, inspired him to mention a matter to Mr Western, which seemed to require more impudence than a human forehead was ever gifted with. He desired leave to go to Sophia, that he might endeavour to obtain her concurrence with her father's inclinations.
If the squire had been as quicksighted as he was remarkable for the contrary, passion might at present very well have blinded him. He thanked Jones for offering to undertake the office, and said, "Go, go, prithee, try what canst do;" and then swore many execrable oaths that he would turn her out of doors unless she consented to the match.
The meeting between Jones and Sophia.
Jones departed instantly in quest of Sophia, whom he found just risen from the ground, where her father had left her, with the tears trickling from her eyes, and the blood running from her lips. He presently ran to her, and with a voice full at once of tenderness and terrour, cried, "O my Sophia, what means this dreadful sight?" She looked softly at him for a moment before she spoke, and then said, "Mr Jones, for Heaven's sake how came you here?—Leave me, I beseech you, this moment."—"Do not," says he, "impose so harsh a command upon me—my heart bleeds faster than those lips. O Sophia, how easily could I drain my veins to preserve one drop of that dear blood."—"I have too many obligations to you already," answered she, "for sure you meant them such." Here she looked at him tenderly almost a minute, and then bursting into an agony, cried, "Oh, Mr Jones, why did you save my life? my death would have been happier for us both."—"Happier for us both!" cried he. "Could racks or wheels kill me so painfully as Sophia's—I cannot bear the dreadful sound. Do I live but for her?" Both his voice and looks were full of inexpressible tenderness when he spoke these words; and at the same time he laid gently hold on her hand, which she did not withdraw from him; to say the truth, she hardly knew what she did or suffered. A few moments now passed in silence between these lovers, while his eyes were eagerly fixed on Sophia, and hers declining towards the ground: at last she recovered strength enough to desire him again to leave her, for that her certain ruin would be the consequence of their being found together; adding, "Oh, Mr Jones, you know not, you know not what hath passed this cruel afternoon."—"I know all, my Sophia," answered he; "your cruel father hath told me all, and he himself hath sent me hither to you."—"My father sent you to me!" replied she: "sure you dream."—"Would to Heaven," cries he, "it was but a dream! Oh, Sophia, your father hath sent me to you, to be an advocate for my odious rival, to solicit you in his favour. I took any means to get access to you. O speak to me, Sophia! comfort my bleeding heart. Sure no one ever loved, ever doated like me. Do not unkindly withhold this dear, this soft, this gentle hand—one moment, perhaps, tears you for ever from me—nothing less than this cruel occasion could, I believe, have ever conquered the respect and awe with which you have inspired me." She stood a moment silent, and covered with confusion; then lifting up her eyes gently towards him, she cried, "What would Mr Jones have me say?"—"O do but promise," cries he, "that you never will give yourself to Blifil."—"Name not," answered she, "the detested sound. Be assured I never will give him what is in my power to withhold from him."—"Now then," cries he, "while you are so perfectly kind, go a little farther, and add that I may hope."—"Alas!" says she, "Mr Jones, whither will you drive me? What hope have I to bestow? You know my father's intentions."—"But I know," answered he, "your compliance with them cannot be compelled."—"What," says she, "must be the dreadful consequence of my disobedience? My own ruin is my least concern. I cannot bear the thoughts of being the cause of my father's misery."—"He is himself the cause," cries Jones, "by exacting a power over you which Nature hath not given him. Think on the misery which I am to suffer if I am to lose you, and see on which side pity will turn the balance."—"Think of it!" replied she: "can you imagine I do not feel the ruin which I must bring on you, should I comply with your desire? It is that thought which gives me resolution to bid you fly from me for ever, and avoid your own destruction."—"I fear no destruction," cries he, "but the loss of Sophia. If you would save me from the most bitter agonies, recall that cruel sentence. Indeed, I can never part with you, indeed I cannot."
The lovers now stood both silent and trembling, Sophia being unable to withdraw her hand from Jones, and he almost as unable to hold it; when the scene, which I believe some of my readers will think had lasted long enough, was interrupted by one of so different a nature, that we shall reserve the relation of it for a different chapter.
Being of a much more tempestuous kind than the former.
Before we proceed with what now happened to our lovers, it may be proper to recount what had past in the hall during their tender interview.
Soon after Jones had left Mr Western in the manner above mentioned, his sister came to him, and was presently informed of all that had passed between her brother and Sophia relating to Blifil.
This behaviour in her niece the good lady construed to be an absolute breach of the condition on which she had engaged to keep her love for Mr Jones a secret. She considered herself, therefore, at full liberty to reveal all she knew to the squire, which she immediately did in the most explicit terms, and without any ceremony or preface.
The idea of a marriage between Jones and his daughter, had never once entered into the squire's head, either in the warmest minutes of his affection towards that young man, or from suspicion, or on any other occasion. He did indeed consider a parity of fortune and circumstances to be physically as necessary an ingredient in marriage, as difference of sexes, or any other essential; and had no more apprehension of his daughter's falling in love with a poor man, than with any animal of a different species.
He became, therefore, like one thunderstruck at his sister's relation. He was, at first, incapable of making any answer, having been almost deprived of his breath by the violence of the surprize. This, however, soon returned, and, as is usual in other cases after an intermission, with redoubled force and fury.
The first use he made of the power of speech, after his recovery from the sudden effects of his astonishment, was to discharge a round volley of oaths and imprecations. After which he proceeded hastily to the apartment where he expected to find the lovers, and murmured, or rather indeed roared forth, intentions of revenge every step he went.
As when two doves, or two wood-pigeons, or as when Strephon and Phyllis (for that comes nearest to the mark) are retired into some pleasant solitary grove, to enjoy the delightful conversation of Love, that bashful boy, who cannot speak in public, and is never a good companion to more than two at a time; here, while every object is serene, should hoarse thunder burst suddenly through the shattered clouds, and rumbling roll along the sky, the frightened maid starts from the mossy bank or verdant turf, the pale livery of death succeeds the red regimentals in which Love had before drest her cheeks, fear shakes her whole frame, and her lover scarce supports her trembling tottering limbs.
Or as when two gentlemen, strangers to the wondrous wit of the place, are cracking a bottle together at some inn or tavern at Salisbury, if the great Dowdy, who acts the part of a madman as well as some of his setters-on do that of a fool, should rattle his chains, and dreadfully hum forth the grumbling catch along the gallery; the frighted strangers stand aghast; scared at the horrid sound, they seek some place of shelter from the approaching danger; and if the well-barred windows did admit their exit, would venture their necks to escape the threatening fury now coming upon them.
So trembled poor Sophia, so turned she pale at the noise of her father, who, in a voice most dreadful to hear, came on swearing, cursing, and vowing the destruction of Jones. To say the truth, I believe the youth himself would, from some prudent considerations, have preferred another place of abode at this time, had his terror on Sophia's account given him liberty to reflect a moment on what any otherways concerned himself, than as his love made him partake whatever affected her.
And now the squire, having burst open the door, beheld an object which instantly suspended all his fury against Jones; this was the ghastly appearance of Sophia, who had fainted away in her lover's arms. This tragical sight Mr Western no sooner beheld, than all his rage forsook him; he roared for help with his utmost violence; ran first to his daughter, then back to the door calling for water, and then back again to Sophia, never considering in whose arms she then was, nor perhaps once recollecting that there was such a person in the world as Jones; for indeed I believe the present circumstances of his daughter were now the sole consideration which employed his thoughts.
Mrs Western and a great number of servants soon came to the assistance of Sophia with water, cordials, and everything necessary on those occasions. These were applied with such success, that Sophia in a very few minutes began to recover, and all the symptoms of life to return. Upon which she was presently led off by her own maid and Mrs Western: nor did that good lady depart without leaving some wholesome admonitions with her brother, on the dreadful effects of his passion, or, as she pleased to call it, madness.
The squire, perhaps, did not understand this good advice, as it was delivered in obscure hints, shrugs, and notes of admiration: at least, if he did understand it, he profited very little by it; for no sooner was he cured of his immediate fears for his daughter, than he relapsed into his former frenzy, which must have produced an immediate battle with Jones, had not parson Supple, who was a very strong man, been present, and by mere force restrained the squire from acts of hostility.
The moment Sophia was departed, Jones advanced in a very suppliant manner to Mr Western, whom the parson held in his arms, and begged him to be pacified; for that, while he continued in such a passion, it would be impossible to give him any satisfaction.
"I wull have satisfaction o' thee," answered the squire; "so doff thy clothes. _At unt_ half a man, and I'll lick thee as well as wast ever licked in thy life." He then bespattered the youth with abundance of that language which passes between country gentlemen who embrace opposite sides of the question; with frequent applications to him to salute that part which is generally introduced into all controversies that arise among the lower orders of the English gentry at horse-races, cock-matches, and other public places. Allusions to this part are likewise often made for the sake of the jest. And here, I believe, the wit is generally misunderstood. In reality, it lies in desiring another to kiss your a—for having just before threatened to kick his; for I have observed very accurately, that no one ever desires you to kick that which belongs to himself, nor offers to kiss this part in another.
It may likewise seem surprizing that in the many thousand kind invitations of this sort, which every one who hath conversed with country gentlemen must have heard, no one, I believe, hath ever seen a single instance where the desire hath been complied with;—a great instance of their want of politeness; for in town nothing can be more common than for the finest gentlemen to perform this ceremony every day to their superiors, without having that favour once requested of them.
To all such wit, Jones very calmly answered, "Sir, this usage may perhaps cancel every other obligation you have conferred on me; but there is one you can never cancel; nor will I be provoked by your abuse to lift my hand against the father of Sophia."
At these words the squire grew still more outrageous than before; so that the parson begged Jones to retire; saying, "You behold, sir, how he waxeth wrath at your abode here; therefore let me pray you not to tarry any longer. His anger is too much kindled for you to commune with him at present. You had better, therefore, conclude your visit, and refer what matters you have to urge in your behalf to some other opportunity."
Jones accepted this advice with thanks, and immediately departed. The squire now regained the liberty of his hands, and so much temper as to express some satisfaction in the restraint which had been laid upon him; declaring that he should certainly have beat his brains out; and adding, "It would have vexed one confoundedly to have been hanged for such a rascal."
The parson now began to triumph in the success of his peace-making endeavours, and proceeded to read a lecture against anger, which might perhaps rather have tended to raise than to quiet that passion in some hasty minds. This lecture he enriched with many valuable quotations from the antients, particularly from Seneca; who hath indeed so well handled this passion, that none but a very angry man can read him without great pleasure and profit. The doctor concluded this harangue with the famous story of Alexander and Clitus; but as I find that entered in my common-place under title Drunkenness, I shall not insert it here.
The squire took no notice of this story, nor perhaps of anything he said; for he interrupted him before he had finished, by calling for a tankard of beer; observing (which is perhaps as true as any observation on this fever of the mind) that anger makes a man dry.
No sooner had the squire swallowed a large draught than he renewed the discourse on Jones, and declared a resolution of going the next morning early to acquaint Mr Allworthy. His friend would have dissuaded him from this, from the mere motive of good-nature; but his dissuasion had no other effect than to produce a large volley of oaths and curses, which greatly shocked the pious ears of Supple; but he did not dare to remonstrate against a privilege which the squire claimed as a freeborn Englishman. To say truth, the parson submitted to please his palate at the squire's table, at the expense of suffering now and then this violence to his ears. He contented himself with thinking he did not promote this evil practice, and that the squire would not swear an oath the less, if he never entered within his gates. However, though he was not guilty of ill manners by rebuking a gentleman in his own house, he paid him off obliquely in the pulpit: which had not, indeed, the good effect of working a reformation in the squire himself; yet it so far operated on his conscience, that he put the laws very severely in execution against others, and the magistrate was the only person in the parish who could swear with impunity.
In which Mr Western visits Mr Allworthy.
Mr Allworthy was now retired from breakfast with his nephew, well satisfied with the report of the young gentleman's successful visit to Sophia (for he greatly desired the match, more on account of the young lady's character than of her riches), when Mr Western broke abruptly in upon them, and without any ceremony began as follows:—
"There, you have done a fine piece of work truly! You have brought up your bastard to a fine purpose; not that I believe you have had any hand in it neither, that is, as a man may say, designedly: but there is a fine kettle-of-fish made on't up at our house." "What can be the matter, Mr Western?" said Allworthy. "O, matter enow of all conscience: my daughter hath fallen in love with your bastard, that's all; but I won't ge her a hapeny, not the twentieth part of a brass varden. I always thought what would come o' breeding up a bastard like a gentleman, and letting un come about to vok's houses. It's well vor un I could not get at un: I'd a lick'd un; I'd a spoil'd his caterwauling; I'd a taught the son of a whore to meddle with meat for his master. He shan't ever have a morsel of meat of mine, or a varden to buy it: if she will ha un, one smock shall be her portion. I'd sooner ge my esteate to the zinking fund, that it may be sent to Hanover to corrupt our nation with." "I am heartily sorry," cries Allworthy. "Pox o' your sorrow," says Western; "it will do me abundance of good when I have lost my only child, my poor Sophy, that was the joy of my heart, and all the hope and comfort of my age; but I am resolved I will turn her out o' doors; she shall beg, and starve, and rot in the streets. Not one hapeny, not a hapeny shall she ever hae o' mine. The son of a bitch was always good at finding a hare sitting, an be rotted to'n: I little thought what puss he was looking after; but it shall be the worst he ever vound in his life. She shall be no better than carrion: the skin o'er is all he shall ha, and zu you may tell un." "I am in amazement," cries Allworthy, "at what you tell me, after what passed between my nephew and the young lady no longer ago than yesterday." "Yes, sir," answered Western, "it was after what passed between your nephew and she that the whole matter came out. Mr Blifil there was no sooner gone than the son of a whore came lurching about the house. Little did I think when I used to love him for a sportsman that he was all the while a poaching after my daughter." "Why truly," says Allworthy, "I could wish you had not given him so many opportunities with her; and you will do me the justice to acknowledge that I have always been averse to his staying so much at your house, though I own I had no suspicion of this kind." "Why, zounds," cries Western, "who could have thought it? What the devil had she to do wi'n? He did not come there a courting to her; he came there a hunting with me." "But was it possible," says Allworthy, "that you should never discern any symptoms of love between them, when you have seen them so often together?" "Never in my life, as I hope to be saved," cries Western: "I never so much as zeed him kiss her in all my life; and so far from courting her, he used rather to be more silent when she was in company than at any other time; and as for the girl, she was always less civil to'n than to any young man that came to the house. As to that matter, I am not more easy to be deceived than another; I would not have you think I am, neighbour." Allworthy could scarce refrain laughter at this; but he resolved to do a violence to himself; for he perfectly well knew mankind, and had too much good-breeding and good-nature to offend the squire in his present circumstances. He then asked Western what he would have him do upon this occasion. To which the other answered, "That he would have him keep the rascal away from his house, and that he would go and lock up the wench; for he was resolved to make her marry Mr Blifil in spite of her teeth." He then shook Blifil by the hand, and swore he would have no other son-in-law. Presently after which he took his leave; saying his house was in such disorder that it was necessary for him to make haste home, to take care his daughter did not give him the slip; and as for Jones, he swore if he caught him at his house, he would qualify him to run for the geldings' plate.
When Allworthy and Blifil were again left together, a long silence ensued between them; all which interval the young gentleman filled up with sighs, which proceeded partly from disappointment, but more from hatred; for the success of Jones was much more grievous to him than the loss of Sophia.
At length his uncle asked him what he was determined to do, and he answered in the following words:—"Alas! sir, can it be a question what step a lover will take, when reason and passion point different ways? I am afraid it is too certain he will, in that dilemma, always follow the latter. Reason dictates to me, to quit all thoughts of a woman who places her affections on another; my passion bids me hope she may in time change her inclinations in my favour. Here, however, I conceive an objection may be raised, which, if it could not fully be answered, would totally deter me from any further pursuit. I mean the injustice of endeavouring to supplant another in a heart of which he seems already in possession; but the determined resolution of Mr Western shows that, in this case, I shall, by so doing, promote the happiness of every party; not only that of the parent, who will thus be preserved from the highest degree of misery, but of both the others, who must be undone by this match. The lady, I am sure, will be undone in every sense; for, besides the loss of most part of her own fortune, she will be not only married to a beggar, but the little fortune which her father cannot withhold from her will be squandered on that wench with whom I know he yet converses. Nay, that is a trifle; for I know him to be one of the worst men in the world; for had my dear uncle known what I have hitherto endeavoured to conceal, he must have long since abandoned so profligate a wretch." "How!" said Allworthy; "hath he done anything worse than I already know? Tell me, I beseech you?" "No," replied Blifil; "it is now past, and perhaps he may have repented of it." "I command you, on your duty," said Allworthy, "to tell me what you mean." "You know, sir," says Blifil, "I never disobeyed you; but I am sorry I mentioned it, since it may now look like revenge, whereas, I thank Heaven, no such motive ever entered my heart; and if you oblige me to discover it, I must be his petitioner to you for your forgiveness." "I will have no conditions," answered Allworthy; "I think I have shown tenderness enough towards him, and more perhaps than you ought to thank me for." "More, indeed, I fear, than he deserved," cries Blifil; "for in the very day of your utmost danger, when myself and all the family were in tears, he filled the house with riot and debauchery. He drank, and sung, and roared; and when I gave him a gentle hint of the indecency of his actions, he fell into a violent passion, swore many oaths, called me rascal, and struck me." "How!" cries Allworthy; "did he dare to strike you?" "I am sure," cries Blifil, "I have forgiven him that long ago. I wish I could so easily forget his ingratitude to the best of benefactors; and yet even that I hope you will forgive him, since he must have certainly been possessed with the devil: for that very evening, as Mr Thwackum and myself were taking the air in the fields, and exulting in the good symptoms which then first began to discover themselves, we unluckily saw him engaged with a wench in a manner not fit to be mentioned. Mr Thwackum, with more boldness than prudence, advanced to rebuke him, when (I am sorry to say it) he fell upon the worthy man, and beat him so outrageously that I wish he may have yet recovered the bruises. Nor was I without my share of the effects of his malice, while I endeavoured to protect my tutor; but that I have long forgiven; nay, I prevailed with Mr Thwackum to forgive him too, and not to inform you of a secret which I feared might be fatal to him. And now, sir, since I have unadvisedly dropped a hint of this matter, and your commands have obliged me to discover the whole, let me intercede with you for him." "O child!" said Allworthy, "I know not whether I should blame or applaud your goodness, in concealing such villany a moment: but where is Mr Thwackum? Not that I want any confirmation of what you say; but I will examine all the evidence of this matter, to justify to the world the example I am resolved to make of such a monster."
Thwackum was now sent for, and presently appeared. He corroborated every circumstance which the other had deposed; nay, he produced the record upon his breast, where the handwriting of Mr Jones remained very legible in black and blue. He concluded with declaring to Mr Allworthy, that he should have long since informed him of this matter, had not Mr Blifil, by the most earnest interpositions, prevented him. "He is," says he, "an excellent youth: though such forgiveness of enemies is carrying the matter too far."
In reality, Blifil had taken some pains to prevail with the parson, and to prevent the discovery at that time; for which he had many reasons. He knew that the minds of men are apt to be softened and relaxed from their usual severity by sickness. Besides, he imagined that if the story was told when the fact was so recent, and the physician about the house, who might have unravelled the real truth, he should never be able to give it the malicious turn which he intended. Again, he resolved to hoard up this business, till the indiscretion of Jones should afford some additional complaints; for he thought the joint weight of many facts falling upon him together, would be the most likely to crush him; and he watched, therefore, some such opportunity as that with which fortune had now kindly presented him. Lastly, by prevailing with Thwackum to conceal the matter for a time, he knew he should confirm an opinion of his friendship to Jones, which he had greatly laboured to establish in Mr Allworthy.
A short chapter; but which contains sufficient matter to affect the good-natured reader.
It was Mr Allworthy's custom never to punish any one, not even to turn away a servant, in a passion. He resolved therefore to delay passing sentence on Jones till the afternoon.
The poor young man attended at dinner, as usual; but his heart was too much loaded to suffer him to eat. His grief too was a good deal aggravated by the unkind looks of Mr Allworthy; whence he concluded that Western had discovered the whole affair between him and Sophia; but as to Mr Blifil's story, he had not the least apprehension; for of much the greater part he was entirely innocent; and for the residue, as he had forgiven and forgotten it himself, so he suspected no remembrance on the other side. When dinner was over, and the servants departed, Mr Allworthy began to harangue. He set forth, in a long speech, the many iniquities of which Jones had been guilty, particularly those which this day had brought to light; and concluded by telling him, "That unless he could clear himself of the charge, he was resolved to banish him his sight for ever."
Many disadvantages attended poor Jones in making his defence; nay, indeed, he hardly knew his accusation; for as Mr Allworthy, in recounting the drunkenness, &c., while he lay ill, out of modesty sunk everything that related particularly to himself, which indeed principally constituted the crime; Jones could not deny the charge. His heart was, besides, almost broken already; and his spirits were so sunk, that he could say nothing for himself; but acknowledged the whole, and, like a criminal in despair, threw himself upon mercy; concluding, "That though he must own himself guilty of many follies and inadvertencies, he hoped he had done nothing to deserve what would be to him the greatest punishment in the world."
Allworthy answered, "That he had forgiven him too often already, in compassion to his youth, and in hopes of his amendment: that he now found he was an abandoned reprobate, and such as it would be criminal in any one to support and encourage. Nay," said Mr Allworthy to him, "your audacious attempt to steal away the young lady, calls upon me to justify my own character in punishing you. The world who have already censured the regard I have shown for you may think, with some colour at least of justice, that I connive at so base and barbarous an action—an action of which you must have known my abhorrence: and which, had you had any concern for my ease and honour, as well as for my friendship, you would never have thought of undertaking. Fie upon it, young man! indeed there is scarce any punishment equal to your crimes, and I can scarce think myself justifiable in what I am now going to bestow on you. However, as I have educated you like a child of my own, I will not turn you naked into the world. When you open this paper, therefore, you will find something which may enable you, with industry, to get an honest livelihood; but if you employ it to worse purposes, I shall not think myself obliged to supply you farther, being resolved, from this day forward, to converse no more with you on any account. I cannot avoid saying, there is no part of your conduct which I resent more than your ill-treatment of that good young man (meaning Blifil) who hath behaved with so much tenderness and honour towards you."
These last words were a dose almost too bitter to be swallowed. A flood of tears now gushed from the eyes of Jones, and every faculty of speech and motion seemed to have deserted him. It was some time before he was able to obey Allworthy's peremptory commands of departing; which he at length did, having first kissed his hands with a passion difficult to be affected, and as difficult to be described.
The reader must be very weak, if, when he considers the light in which Jones then appeared to Mr Allworthy, he should blame the rigour of his sentence. And yet all the neighbourhood, either from this weakness, or from some worse motive, condemned this justice and severity as the highest cruelty. Nay, the very persons who had before censured the good man for the kindness and tenderness shown to a bastard (his own, according to the general opinion), now cried out as loudly against turning his own child out of doors. The women especially were unanimous in taking the part of Jones, and raised more stories on the occasion than I have room, in this chapter, to set down.
One thing must not be omitted, that, in their censures on this occasion, none ever mentioned the sum contained in the paper which Allworthy gave Jones, which was no less than five hundred pounds; but all agreed that he was sent away penniless, and some said naked, from the house of his inhuman father.
Containing love-letters, &c.
Jones was commanded to leave the house immediately, and told, that his clothes and everything else should be sent to him whithersoever he should order them.
He accordingly set out, and walked above a mile, not regarding, and indeed scarce knowing, whither he went. At length a little brook obstructing his passage, he threw himself down by the side of it; nor could he help muttering with some little indignation, "Sure my father will not deny me this place to rest in!"
Here he presently fell into the most violent agonies, tearing his hair from his head, and using most other actions which generally accompany fits of madness, rage, and despair.
When he had in this manner vented the first emotions of passion, he began to come a little to himself. His grief now took another turn, and discharged itself in a gentler way, till he became at last cool enough to reason with his passion, and to consider what steps were proper to be taken in his deplorable condition.
And now the great doubt was, how to act with regard to Sophia. The thoughts of leaving her almost rent his heart asunder; but the consideration of reducing her to ruin and beggary still racked him, if possible, more; and if the violent desire of possessing her person could have induced him to listen one moment to this alternative, still he was by no means certain of her resolution to indulge his wishes at so high an expense. The resentment of Mr Allworthy, and the injury he must do to his quiet, argued strongly against this latter; and lastly, the apparent impossibility of his success, even if he would sacrifice all these considerations to it, came to his assistance; and thus honour at last backed with despair, with gratitude to his benefactor, and with real love to his mistress, got the better of burning desire, and he resolved rather to quit Sophia, than pursue her to her ruin.
It is difficult for any who have not felt it, to conceive the glowing warmth which filled his breast on the first contemplation of this victory over his passion. Pride flattered him so agreeably, that his mind perhaps enjoyed perfect happiness; but this was only momentary: Sophia soon returned to his imagination, and allayed the joy of his triumph with no less bitter pangs than a good-natured general must feel, when he surveys the bleeding heaps, at the price of whose blood he hath purchased his laurels; for thousands of tender ideas lay murdered before our conqueror.
Being resolved, however, to pursue the paths of this giant honour, as the gigantic poet Lee calls it, he determined to write a farewel letter to Sophia; and accordingly proceeded to a house not far off, where, being furnished with proper materials, he wrote as follows:—
|"When you reflect on the situation in which I write, I am sure your|
|good-nature will pardon any inconsistency or absurdity which my|
|letter contains; for everything here flows from a heart so full,|
|that no language can express its dictates.|
|"I have resolved, madam, to obey your commands, in flying for ever|
|from your dear, your lovely sight. Cruel indeed those commands are;|
|but it is a cruelty which proceeds from fortune, not from my Sophia.|
|Fortune hath made it necessary, necessary to your preservation, to|
|forget there ever was such a wretch as I am.|
|"Believe me, I would not hint all my sufferings to you, if I|
|imagined they could possibly escape your ears. I know the goodness|
|and tenderness of your heart, and would avoid giving you any of|
|those pains which you always feel for the miserable. O let nothing,|
|which you shall hear of my hard fortune, cause a moment's concern;|
|for, after the loss of you, everything is to me a trifle.|
|"O Sophia! it is hard to leave you; it is harder still to desire you|
|to forget me; yet the sincerest love obliges me to both. Pardon my|
|conceiving that any remembrance of me can give you disquiet; but if|
|I am so gloriously wretched, sacrifice me every way to your relief.|
|Think I never loved you; or think truly how little I deserve you;|
|and learn to scorn me for a presumption which can never be too|
|severely punished.—I am unable to say more.—May guardian angels|
|protect you for ever!"|
He was now searching his pockets for his wax, but found none, nor indeed anything else, therein; for in truth he had, in his frantic disposition, tossed everything from him, and amongst the rest, his pocket-book, which he had received from Mr Allworthy, which he had never opened, and which now first occurred to his memory.
The house supplied him with a wafer for his present purpose, with which, having sealed his letter, he returned hastily towards the brook side, in order to search for the things which he had there lost. In his way he met his old friend Black George, who heartily condoled with him on his misfortune; for this had already reached his ears, and indeed those of all the neighbourhood.
Jones acquainted the gamekeeper with his loss, and he as readily went back with him to the brook, where they searched every tuft of grass in the meadow, as well where Jones had not been as where he had been; but all to no purpose, for they found nothing; for, indeed, though the things were then in the meadow, they omitted to search the only place where they were deposited; to wit, in the pockets of the said George; for he had just before found them, and being luckily apprized of their value, had very carefully put them up for his own use.
The gamekeeper having exerted as much diligence in quest of the lost goods, as if he had hoped to find them, desired Mr Jones to recollect if he had been in no other place: "For sure," said he, "if you had lost them here so lately, the things must have been here still; for this is a very unlikely place for any one to pass by." And indeed it was by great accident that he himself had passed through that field, in order to lay wires for hares, with which he was to supply a poulterer at Bath the next morning.
Jones now gave over all hopes of recovering his loss, and almost all thoughts concerning it, and turning to Black George, asked him earnestly if he would do him the greatest favour in the world?
George answered with some hesitation, "Sir, you know you may command me whatever is in my power, and I heartily wish it was in my power to do you any service." In fact, the question staggered him; for he had, by selling game, amassed a pretty good sum of money in Mr Western's service, and was afraid that Jones wanted to borrow some small matter of him; but he was presently relieved from his anxiety, by being desired to convey a letter to Sophia, which with great pleasure he promised to do. And indeed I believe there are few favours which he would not have gladly conferred on Mr Jones; for he bore as much gratitude towards him as he could, and was as honest as men who love money better than any other thing in the universe, generally are.
Mrs Honour was agreed by both to be the proper means by which this letter should pass to Sophia. They then separated; the gamekeeper returned home to Mr Western's, and Jones walked to an alehouse at half a mile's distance, to wait for his messenger's return.
George no sooner came home to his master's house than he met with Mrs Honour; to whom, having first sounded her with a few previous questions, he delivered the letter for her mistress, and received at the same time another from her, for Mr Jones; which Honour told him she had carried all that day in her bosom, and began to despair of finding any means of delivering it.
The gamekeeper returned hastily and joyfully to Jones, who, having received Sophia's letter from him, instantly withdrew, and eagerly breaking it open, read as follows:—
|"It is impossible to express what I have felt since I saw you. Your|
|submitting, on my account, to such cruel insults from my father,|
|lays me under an obligation I shall ever own. As you know his|
|temper, I beg you will, for my sake, avoid him. I wish I had any|
|comfort to send you; but believe this, that nothing but the last|
|violence shall ever give my hand or heart where you would be sorry|
|to see them bestowed."|
Jones read this letter a hundred times over, and kissed it a hundred times as often. His passion now brought all tender desires back into his mind. He repented that he had writ to Sophia in the manner we have seen above; but he repented more that he had made use of the interval of his messenger's absence to write and dispatch a letter to Mr Allworthy, in which he had faithfully promised and bound himself to quit all thoughts of his love. However, when his cool reflections returned, he plainly perceived that his case was neither mended nor altered by Sophia's billet, unless to give him some little glimpse of hope, from her constancy, of some favourable accident hereafter. He therefore resumed his resolution, and taking leave of Black George, set forward to a town about five miles distant, whither he had desired Mr Allworthy, unless he pleased to revoke his sentence, to send his things after him.
The behaviour of Sophia on the present occasion; which none of her sex will blame, who are capable of behaving in the same manner. And the discussion of a knotty point in the court of conscience.
Sophia had passed the last twenty-four hours in no very desirable manner. During a large part of them she had been entertained by her aunt with lectures of prudence, recommending to her the example of the polite world, where love (so the good lady said) is at present entirely laughed at, and where women consider matrimony, as men do offices of public trust, only as the means of making their fortunes, and of advancing themselves in the world. In commenting on which text Mrs Western had displayed her eloquence during several hours.
These sagacious lectures, though little suited either to the taste or inclination of Sophia, were, however, less irksome to her than her own thoughts, that formed the entertainment of the night, during which she never once closed her eyes.
But though she could neither sleep nor rest in her bed, yet, having no avocation from it, she was found there by her father at his return from Allworthy's, which was not till past ten o'clock in the morning. He went directly up to her apartment, opened the door, and seeing she was not up, cried, "Oh! you are safe then, and I am resolved to keep you so." He then locked the door, and delivered the key to Honour, having first given her the strictest charge, with great promises of rewards for her fidelity, and most dreadful menaces of punishment in case she should betray her trust.
Honour's orders were, not to suffer her mistress to come out of her room without the authority of the squire himself, and to admit none to her but him and her aunt; but she was herself to attend her with whatever Sophia pleased, except only pen, ink, and paper, of which she was forbidden the use.
The squire ordered his daughter to dress herself and attend him at dinner; which she obeyed; and having sat the usual time, was again conducted to her prison.
In the evening the gaoler Honour brought her the letter which she received from the gamekeeper. Sophia read it very attentively twice or thrice over, and then threw herself upon the bed, and burst into a flood of tears. Mrs Honour expressed great astonishment at this behaviour in her mistress; nor could she forbear very eagerly begging to know the cause of this passion. Sophia made her no answer for some time, and then, starting suddenly up, caught her maid by the hand, and cried, "O Honour! I am undone." "Marry forbid," cries Honour: "I wish the letter had been burnt before I had brought it to your la'ship. I'm sure I thought it would have comforted your la'ship, or I would have seen it at the devil before I would have touched it." "Honour," says Sophia, "you are a good girl, and it is vain to attempt concealing longer my weakness from you; I have thrown away my heart on a man who hath forsaken me." "And is Mr Jones," answered the maid, "such a perfidy man?" "He hath taken his leave of me," says Sophia, "for ever in that letter. Nay, he hath desired me to forget him. Could he have desired that if he had loved me? Could he have borne such a thought? Could he have written such a word?" "No, certainly, ma'am," cries Honour; "and to be sure, if the best man in England was to desire me to forget him, I'd take him at his word. Marry, come up! I am sure your la'ship hath done him too much honour ever to think on him;—a young lady who may take her choice of all the young men in the country. And to be sure, if I may be so presumptuous as to offer my poor opinion, there is young Mr Blifil, who, besides that he is come of honest parents, and will be one of the greatest squires all hereabouts, he is to be sure, in my poor opinion, a more handsomer and a more politer man by half; and besides, he is a young gentleman of a sober character, and who may defy any of the neighbours to say black is his eye; he follows no dirty trollops, nor can any bastards be laid at his door. Forget him, indeed! I thank Heaven I myself am not so much at my last prayers as to suffer any man to bid me forget him twice. If the best he that wears a head was for to go for to offer to say such an affronting word to me, I would never give him my company afterwards, if there was another young man in the kingdom. And as I was a saying, to be sure, there is young Mr Blifil." "Name not his detested name," cries Sophia. "Nay, ma'am," says Honour, "if your la'ship doth not like him, there be more jolly handsome young men that would court your la'ship, if they had but the least encouragement. I don't believe there is arrow young gentleman in this county, or in the next to it, that if your la'ship was but to look as if you had a mind to him, would not come about to make his offers directly." "What a wretch dost thou imagine me," cries Sophia, "by affronting my ears with such stuff! I detest all mankind." "Nay, to be sure, ma'am," answered Honour, "your la'ship hath had enough to give you a surfeit of them. To be used ill by such a poor, beggarly, bastardly fellow."—"Hold your blasphemous tongue," cries Sophia: "how dare you mention his name with disrespect before me? He use me ill? No, his poor bleeding heart suffered more when he writ the cruel words than mine from reading them. O! he is all heroic virtue and angelic goodness. I am ashamed of the weakness of my own passion, for blaming what I ought to admire. O, Honour! it is my good only which he consults. To my interest he sacrifices both himself and me. The apprehension of ruining me hath driven him to despair." "I am very glad," says Honour, "to hear your la'ship takes that into your consideration; for to be sure, it must be nothing less than ruin to give your mind to one that is turned out of doors, and is not worth a farthing in the world." "Turned out of doors!" cries Sophia hastily: "how! what dost thou mean?" "Why, to be sure, ma'am, my master no sooner told Squire Allworthy about Mr Jones having offered to make love to your la'ship than the squire stripped him stark naked, and turned him out of doors!" "Ha!" says Sophia, "I have been the cursed, wretched cause of his destruction! Turned naked out of doors! Here, Honour, take all the money I have; take the rings from my fingers. Here, my watch: carry him all. Go find him immediately." "For Heaven's sake, ma'am," answered Mrs Honour, "do but consider, if my master should miss any of these things, I should be made to answer for them. Therefore let me beg your la'ship not to part with your watch and jewels. Besides, the money, I think, is enough of all conscience; and as for that, my master can never know anything of the matter." "Here, then," cries Sophia, "take every farthing I am worth, find him out immediately, and give it him. Go, go, lose not a moment."
Mrs Honour departed according to orders, and finding Black George below-stairs, delivered him the purse, which contained sixteen guineas, being, indeed, the whole stock of Sophia; for though her father was very liberal to her, she was much too generous to be rich.
Black George having received the purse, set forward towards the alehouse; but in the way a thought occurred to him, whether he should not detain this money likewise. His conscience, however, immediately started at this suggestion, and began to upbraid him with ingratitude to his benefactor. To this his avarice answered, That his conscience should have considered the matter before, when he deprived poor Jones of his L500. That having quietly acquiesced in what was of so much greater importance, it was absurd, if not downright hypocrisy, to affect any qualms at this trifle. In return to which, Conscience, like a good lawyer, attempted to distinguish between an absolute breach of trust, as here, where the goods were delivered, and a bare concealment of what was found, as in the former case. Avarice presently treated this with ridicule, called it a distinction without a difference, and absolutely insisted that when once all pretensions of honour and virtue were given up in any one instance, that there was no precedent for resorting to them upon a second occasion. In short, poor Conscience had certainly been defeated in the argument, had not Fear stept in to her assistance, and very strenuously urged that the real distinction between the two actions, did not lie in the different degrees of honour but of safety: for that the secreting the L500 was a matter of very little hazard; whereas the detaining the sixteen guineas was liable to the utmost danger of discovery.
By this friendly aid of Fear, Conscience obtained a compleat victory in the mind of Black George, and, after making him a few compliments on his honesty, forced him to deliver the money to Jones.
A short chapter, containing a short dialogue between Squire Western and his sister.
Mrs Western had been engaged abroad all that day. The squire met her at her return home; and when she enquired after Sophia, he acquainted her that he had secured her safe enough. "She is locked up in chamber," cries he, "and Honour keeps the key." As his looks were full of prodigious wisdom and sagacity when he gave his sister this information, it is probable he expected much applause from her for what he had done; but how was he disappointed when, with a most disdainful aspect, she cried, "Sure, brother, you are the weakest of all men. Why will you not confide in me for the management of my niece? Why will you interpose? You have now undone all that I have been spending my breath in order to bring about. While I have been endeavouring to fill her mind with maxims of prudence, you have been provoking her to reject them. English women, brother, I thank heaven, are no slaves. We are not to be locked up like the Spanish and Italian wives. We have as good a right to liberty as yourselves. We are to be convinced by reason and persuasion only, and not governed by force. I have seen the world, brother, and know what arguments to make use of; and if your folly had not prevented me, should have prevailed with her to form her conduct by those rules of prudence and discretion which I formerly taught her." "To be sure," said the squire, "I am always in the wrong." "Brother," answered the lady, "you are not in the wrong, unless when you meddle with matters beyond your knowledge. You must agree that I have seen most of the world; and happy had it been for my niece if she had not been taken from under my care. It is by living at home with you that she hath learnt romantic notions of love and nonsense." "You don't imagine, I hope," cries the squire, "that I have taught her any such things." "Your ignorance, brother," returned she, "as the great Milton says, almost subdues my patience."[*] "D—n Milton!" answered the squire: "if he had the impudence to say so to my face, I'd lend him a douse, thof he was never so great a man. Patience! An you come to that, sister, I have more occasion of patience, to be used like an overgrown schoolboy, as I am by you. Do you think no one hath any understanding, unless he hath been about at court. Pox! the world is come to a fine pass indeed, if we are all fools, except a parcel of round-heads and Hanover rats. Pox! I hope the times are a coming when we shall make fools of them, and every man shall enjoy his own. That's all, sister; and every man shall enjoy his own. I hope to zee it, sister, before the Hanover rats have eat up all our corn, and left us nothing but turneps to feed upon."—"I protest, brother," cries she, "you are now got beyond my understanding. Your jargon of turneps and Hanover rats is to me perfectly unintelligible."—"I believe," cries he, "you don't care to hear o'em; but the country interest may succeed one day or other for all that."—"I wish," answered the lady, "you would think a little of your daughter's interest; for, believe me, she is in greater danger than the nation."—"Just now," said he, "you chid me for thinking on her, and would ha' her left to you."—"And if you will promise to interpose no more," answered she, "I will, out of my regard to my niece, undertake the charge."—"Well, do then," said the squire, "for you know I always agreed, that women are the properest to manage women."
|[*] The reader may, perhaps, subdue his own patience, if he searches|
|for this in Milton.]|
Mrs Western then departed, muttering something with an air of disdain, concerning women and management of the nation. She immediately repaired to Sophia's apartment, who was now, after a day's confinement, released again from her captivity.