The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling/Book VII
BOOK VII. — Containing Three Days.
- A comparison between the world and the stage.
The world hath been often compared to the theatre; and many grave writers, as well as the poets, have considered human life as a great drama, resembling, in almost every particular, those scenical representations which Thespis is first reported to have invented, and which have been since received with so much approbation and delight in all polite countries.
This thought hath been carried so far, and is become so general, that some words proper to the theatre, and which were at first metaphorically applied to the world, are now indiscriminately and literally spoken of both; thus stage and scene are by common use grown as familiar to us, when we speak of life in general, as when we confine ourselves to dramatic performances: and when transactions behind the curtain are mentioned, St James's is more likely to occur to our thoughts than Drury-lane.
It may seem easy enough to account for all this, by reflecting that the theatrical stage is nothing more than a representation, or, as Aristotle calls it, an imitation of what really exists; and hence, perhaps, we might fairly pay a very high compliment to those who by their writings or actions have been so capable of imitating life, as to have their pictures in a manner confounded with, or mistaken for, the originals.
But, in reality, we are not so fond of paying compliments to these people, whom we use as children frequently do the instruments of their amusement; and have much more pleasure in hissing and buffeting them, than in admiring their excellence. There are many other reasons which have induced us to see this analogy between the world and the stage.
Some have considered the larger part of mankind in the light of actors, as personating characters no more their own, and to which in fact they have no better title, than the player hath to be in earnest thought the king or emperor whom he represents. Thus the hypocrite may be said to be a player; and indeed the Greeks called them both by one and the same name.
The brevity of life hath likewise given occasion to this comparison. So the immortal Shakespear—
- —Life's a poor player,
- That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
- And then is heard no more.*
For which hackneyed quotation I will make the reader amends by a very noble one, which few, I believe, have read. It is taken from a poem called the, and long since buried in oblivion; a proof that good books, no more than good men, do always survive the bad.
- From Thee all human actions take their springs,
- The rise of empires and the fall of kings!
- See the vast Theatre of Time display'd,
- While o'er the scene succeeding heroes tread!
- With pomp the shining images succeed,
- What leaders triumph, and what monarchs bleed!
- Perform the parts thy providence assign'd,
- Their pride, their passions, to thy ends inclin'd:
- Awhile they glitter in the face of day,
- Then at thy nod the phantoms pass away;
- No traces left of all the busy scene,
- But that remembrance says—The things have been!
In all these, however, and in every other similitude of life to the theatre, the resemblance hath been always taken from the stage only. None, as I remember, have at all considered the audience at this great drama.
But as Nature often exhibits some of her best performances to a very full house, so will the behaviour of her spectators no less admit the above-mentioned comparison than that of her actors. In this vast theatre of time are seated the friend and the critic; here are claps and shouts, hisses and groans; in short, everything which was ever seen or heard at the Theatre-Royal.
Let us examine this in one example; for instance, in the behaviour of the great audience on that scene which Nature was pleased to exhibit in the twelfth chapter of the preceding book, where she introduced Black George running away with the £500 from his friend and benefactor.
Those who sat in the world's upper gallery treated that incident, I am well convinced, with their usual vociferation; and every term of scurrilous reproach was most probably vented on that occasion.
If we had descended to the next order of spectators, we should have found an equal degree of abhorrence, though less of noise and scurrility; yet here the good women gave Black George to the devil, and many of them expected every minute that the cloven-footed gentleman would fetch his own.
The pit, as usual, was no doubt divided; those who delight in heroic virtue and perfect character objected to the producing such instances of villany, without punishing them very severely for the sake of example. Some of the author's friends cryed, "Look'e, gentlemen, the man is a villain, but it is nature for all that." And all the young critics of the age, the clerks, apprentices, &c., called it low, and fell a groaning.
As for the boxes, they behaved with their accustomed politeness. Most of them were attending to something else. Some of those few who regarded the scene at all, declared he was a bad kind of man; while others refused to give their opinion, till they had heard that of the best judges.
Now we, who are admitted behind the scenes of this great theatre of Nature (and no author ought to write anything besides dictionaries and spelling-books who hath not this privilege), can censure the action, without conceiving any absolute detestation of the person, whom perhaps Nature may not have designed to act an ill part in all her dramas; for in this instance life most exactly resembles the stage, since it is often the same person who represents the villain and the heroe; and he who engages your admiration to-day will probably attract your contempt to-morrow. As Garrick, whom I regard in tragedy to be the greatest genius the world hath ever produced, sometimes condescends to play the fool; so did Scipio the Great, and Laelius the Wise, according to Horace, many years ago; nay, Cicero reports them to have been These, it is true, played the fool, like my friend Garrick, in jest only; but several eminent characters have, in numberless instances of their lives, played the fool egregiously in earnest; so far as to render it a matter of some doubt whether their wisdom or folly was predominant; or whether they were better intitled to the applause or censure, the admiration or contempt, the love or hatred, of mankind.
Those persons, indeed, who have passed any time behind the scenes of this great theatre, and are thoroughly acquainted not only with the several disguises which are there put on, but also with the fantastic and capricious behaviour of the Passions, who are the managers and directors of this theatre (for as to Reason, the patentee, he is known to be a very idle fellow and seldom to exert himself), may most probably have learned to understand the famous nil admirari of Horace, or in the English phrase, to stare at nothing.
A single bad act no more constitutes a villain in life, than a single bad part on the stage. The passions, like the managers of a playhouse, often force men upon parts without consulting their judgment, and sometimes without any regard to their talents. Thus the man, as well as the player, may condemn what he himself acts; nay, it is common to see vice sit as awkwardly on some men, as the character of Iago would on the honest face of.
Upon the whole, then, the man of candour and of true understanding is never hasty to condemn. He can censure an imperfection, or even a vice, without rage against the guilty party. In a word, they are the same folly, the same childishness, the same ill-breeding, and the same ill-nature, which raise all the clamours and uproars both in life and on the stage. The worst of men generally have the words rogue and villain most in their mouths, as the lowest of all wretches are the aptest to cry out low in the pit.
- Containing a conversation which Mr Jones had with himself.
Jones received his effects from Mr Allworthy's early in the morning, with the following answer to his letter:—
- "I am commanded by my uncle to acquaint you, that as he did not proceed to those measures he had taken with you, without the greatest deliberation, and after the fullest evidence of your unworthiness, so will it be always out of your power to cause the least alteration in his resolution. He expresses great surprize at your presumption in saying you have resigned all pretensions to a young lady, to whom it is impossible you should ever have had any, her birth and fortune having made her so infinitely your superior. Lastly, I am commanded to tell you, that the only instance of your compliance with my uncle's inclinations which he requires, is, your immediately quitting this country. I cannot conclude this without offering you my advice, as a Christian, that you would seriously think of amending your life. That you may be assisted with grace so to do, will be always the prayer of
- "Your humble servant,
- "W. Blifil."
Many contending passions were raised in our heroe's mind by this letter; but the tender prevailed at last over the indignant and irascible, and a flood of tears came seasonably to his assistance, and possibly prevented his misfortunes from either turning his head, or bursting his heart.
He grew, however, soon ashamed of indulging this remedy; and starting up, he cried, "Well, then, I will give Mr Allworthy the only instance he requires of my obedience. I will go this moment—but whither?—why, let Fortune direct; since there is no other who thinks it of any consequence what becomes of this wretched person, it shall be a matter of equal indifference to myself. Shall I alone regard what no other—Ha! have I not reason to think there is another?—one whose value is above that of the whole world!—I may, I must imagine my Sophia is not indifferent to what becomes of me. Shall I then leave this only friend—and such a friend? Shall I not stay with her?—Where—how can I stay with her? Have I any hopes of ever seeing her, though she was as desirous as myself, without exposing her to the wrath of her father, and to what purpose? Can I think of soliciting such a creature to consent to her own ruin? Shall I indulge any passion of mine at such a price? Shall I lurk about this country like a thief, with such intentions?—No, I disdain, I detest the thought. Farewel, Sophia; farewel, most lovely, most beloved—" Here passion stopped his mouth, and found a vent at his eyes.
And now having taken a resolution to leave the country, he began to debate with himself whither he should go. The world, as Milton phrases it, lay all before him; and Jones, no more than Adam, had any man to whom he might resort for comfort or assistance. All his acquaintance were the acquaintance of Mr Allworthy; and he had no reason to expect any countenance from them, as that gentleman had withdrawn his favour from him. Men of great and good characters should indeed be very cautious how they discard their dependents; for the consequence to the unhappy sufferer is being discarded by all others.
What course of life to pursue, or to what business to apply himself, was a second consideration: and here the prospect was all a melancholy void. Every profession, and every trade, required length of time, and what was worse, money; for matters are so constituted, that "nothing out of nothing" is not a truer maxim in physics than in politics; and every man who is greatly destitute of money, is on that account entirely excluded from all means of acquiring it.
At last the Ocean, that hospitable friend to the wretched, opened her capacious arms to receive him; and he instantly resolved to accept her kind invitation. To express myself less figuratively, he determined to go to sea.
This thought indeed no sooner suggested itself, than he eagerly embraced it; and having presently hired horses, he set out for Bristol to put it in execution.
But before we attend him on this expedition, we shall resort awhile to Mr Western's, and see what further happened to the charming Sophia.
- Containing several dialogues.
The morning in which Mr Jones departed, Mrs Western summoned Sophia into her apartment; and having first acquainted her that she had obtained her liberty of her father, she proceeded to read her a long lecture on the subject of matrimony; which she treated not as a romantic scheme of happiness arising from love, as it hath been described by the poets; nor did she mention any of those purposes for which we are taught by divines to regard it as instituted by sacred authority; she considered it rather as a fund in which prudent women deposit their fortunes to the best advantage, in order to receive a larger interest for them than they could have elsewhere.
When Mrs Western had finished, Sophia answered, "That she was very incapable of arguing with a lady of her aunt's superior knowledge and experience, especially on a subject which she had so very little considered, as this of matrimony."
"Argue with me, child!" replied the other; "I do not indeed expect it. I should have seen the world to very little purpose truly, if I am to argue with one of your years. I have taken this trouble, in order to instruct you. The antient philosophers, such as Socrates, Alcibiades, and others, did not use to argue with their scholars. You are to consider me, child, as Socrates, not asking your opinion, but only informing you of mine." From which last words the reader may possibly imagine, that this lady had read no more of the philosophy of Socrates, than she had of that of Alcibiades; and indeed we cannot resolve his curiosity as to this point.
"Madam," cries Sophia, "I have never presumed to controvert any opinion of yours; and this subject, as I said, I have never yet thought of, and perhaps never may."
"Indeed, Sophy," replied the aunt, "this dissimulation with me is very foolish. The French shall as soon persuade me that they take foreign towns in defence only of their own country, as you can impose on me to believe you have never yet thought seriously of matrimony. How can you, child, affect to deny that you have considered of contracting an alliance, when you so well know I am acquainted with the party with whom you desire to contract it?—an alliance as unnatural, and contrary to your interest, as a separate league with the French would be to the interest of the Dutch! But however, if you have not hitherto considered of this matter, I promise you it is now high time, for my brother is resolved immediately to conclude the treaty with Mr Blifil; and indeed I am a sort of guarantee in the affair, and have promised your concurrence."
"Indeed, madam," cries Sophia, "this is the only instance in which I must disobey both yourself and my father. For this is a match which requires very little consideration in me to refuse."
"If I was not as great a philosopher as Socrates himself," returned Mrs Western, "you would overcome my patience. What objection can you have to the young gentleman?"
"A very solid objection, in my opinion," says Sophia—"I hate him."
"Will you never learn a proper use of words?" answered the aunt. "Indeed, child, you should consult Bailey's Dictionary. It is impossible you should hate a man from whom you have received no injury. By hatred, therefore, you mean no more than dislike, which is no sufficient objection against your marrying of him. I have known many couples, who have entirely disliked each other, lead very comfortable genteel lives. Believe me, child, I know these things better than you. You will allow me, I think, to have seen the world, in which I have not an acquaintance who would not rather be thought to dislike her husband than to like him. The contrary is such out-of-fashion romantic nonsense, that the very imagination of it is shocking."
"Indeed, madam," replied Sophia, "I shall never marry a man I dislike. If I promise my father never to consent to any marriage contrary to his inclinations, I think I may hope he will never force me into that state contrary to my own."
"Inclinations!" cries the aunt, with some warmth. "Inclinations! I am astonished at your assurance. A young woman of your age, and unmarried, to talk of inclinations! But whatever your inclinations may be, my brother is resolved; nay, since you talk of inclinations, I shall advise him to hasten the treaty. Inclinations!"
Sophia then flung herself upon her knees, and tears began to trickle from her shining eyes. She entreated her aunt, "to have mercy upon her, and not to resent so cruelly her unwillingness to make herself miserable;" often urging, "that she alone was concerned, and that her happiness only was at stake."
As a bailiff, when well authorized by his writ, having possessed himself of the person of some unhappy debtor, views all his tears without concern; in vain the wretched captive attempts to raise compassion; in vain the tender wife bereft of her companion, the little prattling boy, or frighted girl, are mentioned as inducements to reluctance. The noble bumtrap, blind and deaf to every circumstance of distress, greatly rises above all the motives to humanity, and into the hands of the gaoler resolves to deliver his miserable prey.
Not less blind to the tears, or less deaf to every entreaty of Sophia was the politic aunt, nor less determined was she to deliver over the trembling maid into the arms of the gaoler Blifil. She answered with great impetuosity, "So far, madam, from your being concerned alone, your concern is the least, or surely the least important. It is the honour of your family which is concerned in this alliance; you are only the instrument. Do you conceive, mistress, that in an intermarriage between kingdoms, as when a daughter of France is married into Spain, the princess herself is alone considered in the match? No! it is a match between two kingdoms, rather than between two persons. The same happens in great families such as ours. The alliance between the families is the principal matter. You ought to have a greater regard for the honour of your family than for your own person; and if the example of a princess cannot inspire you with these noble thoughts, you cannot surely complain at being used no worse than all princesses are used."
"I hope, madam," cries Sophia, with a little elevation of voice, "I shall never do anything to dishonour my family; but as for Mr Blifil, whatever may be the consequence, I am resolved against him, and no force shall prevail in his favour."
Western, who had been within hearing during the greater part of the preceding dialogue, had now exhausted all his patience; he therefore entered the room in a violent passion, crying, "D—n me then if shatunt ha'un, d—n me if shatunt, that's all—that's all; d—n me if shatunt."
Mrs Western had collected a sufficient quantity of wrath for the use of Sophia; but she now transferred it all to the squire. "Brother," said she, "it is astonishing that you will interfere in a matter which you had totally left to my negotiation. Regard to my family hath made me take upon myself to be the mediating power, in order to rectify those mistakes in policy which you have committed in your daughter's education. For, brother, it is you—it is your preposterous conduct which hath eradicated all the seeds that I had formerly sown in her tender mind. It is you yourself who have taught her disobedience."—"Blood!" cries the squire, foaming at the mouth, "you are enough to conquer the patience of the devil! Have I ever taught my daughter disobedience?—Here she stands; speak honestly, girl, did ever I bid you be disobedient to me? Have not I done everything to humour and to gratify you, and to make you obedient to me? And very obedient to me she was when a little child, before you took her in hand and spoiled her, by filling her head with a pack of court notions. Why—why—why—did I not overhear you telling her she must behave like a princess? You have made a Whig of the girl; and how should her father, or anybody else, expect any obedience from her?"—"Brother," answered Mrs Western, with an air of great disdain, "I cannot express the contempt I have for your politics of all kinds; but I will appeal likewise to the young lady herself, whether I have ever taught her any principles of disobedience. On the contrary, niece, have I not endeavoured to inspire you with a true idea of the several relations in which a human creature stands in society? Have I not taken infinite pains to show you, that the law of nature hath enjoined a duty on children to their parents? Have I not told you what Plato says on that subject?—a subject on which you was so notoriously ignorant when you came first under my care, that I verily believe you did not know the relation between a daughter and a father."—"'Tis a lie," answered Western. "The girl is no such fool, as to live to eleven years old without knowing that she was her father's relation."—"O! more than Gothic ignorance," answered the lady. "And as for your manners, brother, I must tell you, they deserve a cane."—"Why then you may gi' it me, if you think you are able," cries the squire; "nay, I suppose your niece there will be ready enough to help you."—"Brother," said Mrs Western, "though I despise you beyond expression, yet I shall endure your insolence no longer; so I desire my coach may be got ready immediately, for I am resolved to leave your house this very morning."—"And a good riddance too," answered he; "I can bear your insolence no longer, an you come to that. Blood! it is almost enough of itself to make my daughter undervalue my sense, when she hears you telling me every minute you despise me."—"It is impossible, it is impossible," cries the aunt; "no one can undervalue such a boor."—"Boar," answered the squire, "I am no boar; no, nor ass; no, nor rat neither, madam. Remember that—I am no rat. I am a true Englishman, and not of your Hanover breed, that have eat up the nation."—"Thou art one of those wise men," cries she, "whose nonsensical principles have undone the nation; by weakening the hands of our government at home, and by discouraging our friends and encouraging our enemies abroad."—"Ho! are you come back to your politics?" cries the squire: "as for those I despise them as much as I do a f—t." Which last words he accompanied and graced with the very action, which, of all others, was the most proper to it. And whether it was this word or the contempt exprest for her politics, which most affected Mrs Western, I will not determine; but she flew into the most violent rage, uttered phrases improper to be here related, and instantly burst out of the house. Nor did her brother or her niece think proper either to stop or to follow her; for the one was so much possessed by concern, and the other by anger, that they were rendered almost motionless.
The squire, however, sent after his sister the same holloa which attends the departure of a hare, when she is first started before the hounds. He was indeed a great master of this kind of vociferation, and had a holla proper for most occasions in life.
Women who, like Mrs Western, know the world, and have applied themselves to philosophy and politics, would have immediately availed themselves of the present disposition of Mr Western's mind, by throwing in a few artful compliments to his understanding at the expense of his absent adversary; but poor Sophia was all simplicity. By which word we do not intend to insinuate to the reader, that she was silly, which is generally understood as a synonymous term with simple; for she was indeed a most sensible girl, and her understanding was of the first rate; but she wanted all that useful art which females convert to so many good purposes in life, and which, as it rather arises from the heart than from the head, is often the property of the silliest of women.
- A picture of a country gentlewoman taken from the life.
Mr Western having finished his holla, and taken a little breath, began to lament, in very pathetic terms, the unfortunate condition of men, who are, says he, "always whipt in by the humours of some d—n'd b— or other. I think I was hard run enough by your mother for one man; but after giving her a dodge, here's another b— follows me upon the foil; but curse my jacket if I will be run down in this manner by any o'um."
Sophia never had a single dispute with her father, till this unlucky affair of Blifil, on any account, except in defence of her mother, whom she had loved most tenderly, though she lost her in the eleventh year of her age. The squire, to whom that poor woman had been a faithful upper-servant all the time of their marriage, had returned that behaviour by making what the world calls a good husband. He very seldom swore at her (perhaps not above once a week) and never beat her; she had not the least occasion for jealousy, and was perfect mistress of her time; for she was never interrupted by her husband, who was engaged all the morning in his field exercises, and all the evening with bottle companions. She scarce indeed ever saw him but at meals; where she had the pleasure of carving those dishes which she had before attended at the dressing. From these meals she retired about five minutes after the other servants, having only stayed to drink "the king over the water." Such were, it seems, Mr Western's orders; for it was a maxim with him, that women should come in with the first dish, and go out after the first glass. Obedience to these orders was perhaps no difficult task; for the conversation (if it may be called so) was seldom such as could entertain a lady. It consisted chiefly of hallowing, singing, relations of sporting adventures, b—d—y, and abuse of women, and of the government.
These, however, were the only seasons when Mr Western saw his wife; for when he repaired to her bed, he was generally so drunk that he could not see; and in the sporting season he always rose from her before it was light. Thus was she perfect mistress of her time, and had besides a coach and four usually at her command; though unhappily, indeed, the badness of the neighbourhood, and of the roads, made this of little use; for none who had set much value on their necks would have passed through the one, or who had set any value on their hours, would have visited the other. Now to deal honestly with the reader, she did not make all the return expected to so much indulgence; for she had been married against her will by a fond father, the match having been rather advantageous on her side; for the squire's estate was upward of £3000 a year, and her fortune no more than a bare £8000. Hence perhaps she had contracted a little gloominess of temper, for she was rather a good servant than a good wife; nor had she always the gratitude to return the extraordinary degree of roaring mirth, with which the squire received her, even with a good-humoured smile. She would, moreover, sometimes interfere with matters which did not concern her, as the violent drinking of her husband, which in the gentlest terms she would take some of the few opportunities he gave her of remonstrating against. And once in her life she very earnestly entreated him to carry her for two months to London, which he peremptorily denied; nay, was angry with his wife for the request ever after, being well assured that all the husbands in London are cuckolds.
For this last, and many other good reasons, Western at length heartily hated his wife; and as he never concealed this hatred before her death, so he never forgot it afterwards; but when anything in the least soured him, as a bad scenting day, or a distemper among his hounds, or any other such misfortune, he constantly vented his spleen by invectives against the deceased, saying, "If my wife was alive now, she would be glad of this."
These invectives he was especially desirous of throwing forth before Sophia; for as he loved her more than he did any other, so he was really jealous that she had loved her mother better than him. And this jealousy Sophia seldom failed of heightening on these occasions; for he was not contented with violating her ears with the abuse of her mother, but endeavoured to force an explicit approbation of all this abuse; with which desire he never could prevail upon her by any promise or threats to comply.
Hence some of my readers will, perhaps, wonder that the squire had not hated Sophia as much as he had hated her mother; but I must inform them, that hatred is not the effect of love, even through the medium of jealousy. It is, indeed, very possible for jealous persons to kill the objects of their jealousy, but not to hate them. Which sentiment being a pretty hard morsel, and bearing something of the air of a paradox, we shall leave the reader to chew the cud upon it to the end of the chapter.
- The generous behaviour of Sophia towards her aunt.
Sophia kept silence during the foregoing speech of her father, nor did she once answer otherwise than with a sigh; but as he understood none of the language, or, as he called it, lingo of the eyes, so he was not satisfied without some further approbation of his sentiments, which he now demanded of his daughter; telling her, in the usual way, "he expected she was ready to take the part of everybody against him, as she had always done that of the b— her mother." Sophia remaining still silent, he cryed out, "What, art dumb? why dost unt speak? Was not thy mother a d—d b— to me? answer me that. What, I suppose you despise your father too, and don't think him good enough to speak to?"
"For Heaven's sake, sir," answered Sophia, "do not give so cruel a turn to my silence. I am sure I would sooner die than be guilty of any disrespect towards you; but how can I venture to speak, when every word must either offend my dear papa, or convict me of the blackest ingratitude as well as impiety to the memory of the best of mothers; for such, I am certain, my mamma was always to me?"
"And your aunt, I suppose, is the best of sisters too!" replied the squire. "Will you be so kind as to allow that she is a b—? I may fairly insist upon that, I think?"
"Indeed, sir," says Sophia, "I have great obligations to my aunt. She hath been a second mother to me."
"And a second wife to me too," returned Western; "so you will take her part too! You won't confess that she hath acted the part of the vilest sister in the world?"
"Upon my word, sir," cries Sophia, "I must belie my heart wickedly if I did. I know my aunt and you differ very much in your ways of thinking; but I have heard her a thousand times express the greatest affection for you; and I am convinced, so far from her being the worst sister in the world, there are very few who love a brother better."
"The English of all which is," answered the squire, "that I am in the wrong. Ay, certainly. Ay, to be sure the woman is in the right, and the man in the wrong always."
"Pardon me, sir," cries Sophia. "I do not say so."
"What don't you say?" answered the father: "you have the impudence to say she's in the right: doth it not follow then of course that I am in the wrong? And perhaps I am in the wrong to suffer such a Presbyterian Hanoverian b— to come into my house. She may 'dite me of a plot for anything I know, and give my estate to the government."
"So far, sir, from injuring you or your estate," says Sophia, "if my aunt had died yesterday, I am convinced she would have left you her whole fortune."
Whether Sophia intended it or no, I shall not presume to assert; but certain it is, these last words penetrated very deep into the ears of her father, and produced a much more sensible effect than all she had said before. He received the sound with much the same action as a man receives a bullet in his head. He started, staggered, and turned pale. After which he remained silent above a minute, and then began in the following hesitating manner: "Yesterday! she would have left me her esteate yesterday! would she? Why yesterday, of all the days in the year? I suppose if she dies to-morrow, she will leave it to somebody else, and perhaps out of the vamily."—"My aunt, sir," cries Sophia, "hath very violent passions, and I can't answer what she may do under their influence."
"You can't!" returned the father: "and pray who hath been the occasion of putting her into those violent passions? Nay, who hath actually put her into them? Was not you and she hard at it before I came into the room? Besides, was not all our quarrel about you? I have not quarrelled with sister this many years but upon your account; and now you would throw the whole blame upon me, as thof I should be the occasion of her leaving the esteate out o' the vamily. I could have expected no better indeed; this is like the return you make to all the rest of my fondness."
"I beseech you then," cries Sophia, "upon my knees I beseech you, if I have been the unhappy occasion of this difference, that you will endeavour to make it up with my aunt, and not suffer her to leave your house in this violent rage of anger: she is a very good-natured woman, and a few civil words will satisfy her. Let me entreat you, sir."
"So I must go and ask pardon for your fault, must I?" answered Western. "You have lost the hare, and I must draw every way to find her again? Indeed, if I was certain"—Here he stopt, and Sophia throwing in more entreaties, at length prevailed upon him; so that after venting two or three bitter sarcastical expressions against his daughter, he departed as fast as he could to recover his sister, before her equipage could be gotten ready.
Sophia then returned to her chamber of mourning, where she indulged herself (if the phrase may be allowed me) in all the luxury of tender grief. She read over more than once the letter which she had received from Jones; her muff too was used on this occasion; and she bathed both these, as well as herself, with her tears. In this situation the friendly Mrs Honour exerted her utmost abilities to comfort her afflicted mistress. She ran over the names of many young gentlemen: and having greatly commended their parts and persons, assured Sophia that she might take her choice of any. These methods must have certainly been used with some success in disorders of the like kind, or so skilful a practitioner as Mrs Honour would never have ventured to apply them; nay, I have heard that the college of chambermaids hold them to be as sovereign remedies as any in the female dispensary; but whether it was that Sophia's disease differed inwardly from those cases with which it agreed in external symptoms, I will not assert; but, in fact, the good waiting-woman did more harm than good, and at last so incensed her mistress (which was no easy matter) that with an angry voice she dismissed her from her presence.
- Containing great variety of matter.
The squire overtook his sister just as she was stepping into the coach, and partly by force, and partly by solicitations, prevailed upon her to order her horses back into their quarters. He succeeded in this attempt without much difficulty; for the lady was, as we have already hinted, of a most placable disposition, and greatly loved her brother, though she despised his parts, or rather his little knowledge of the world.
Poor Sophia, who had first set on foot this reconciliation, was now made the sacrifice to it. They both concurred in their censures on her conduct; jointly declared war against her, and directly proceeded to counsel, how to carry it on in the most vigorous manner. For this purpose, Mrs Western proposed not only an immediate conclusion of the treaty with Allworthy, but as immediately to carry it into execution; saying, "That there was no other way to succeed with her niece, but by violent methods, which she was convinced Sophia had not sufficient resolution to resist. By violent," says she, "I mean rather, hasty measures; for as to confinement or absolute force, no such things must or can be attempted. Our plan must be concerted for a surprize, and not for a storm."
These matters were resolved on, when Mr Blifil came to pay a visit to his mistress. The squire no sooner heard of his arrival, than he stept aside, by his sister's advice, to give his daughter orders for the proper reception of her lover: which he did with the most bitter execrations and denunciations of judgment on her refusal.
The impetuosity of the squire bore down all before him; and Sophia, as her aunt very wisely foresaw, was not able to resist him. She agreed, therefore, to see Blifil, though she had scarce spirits or strength sufficient to utter her assent. Indeed, to give a peremptory denial to a father whom she so tenderly loved, was no easy task. Had this circumstance been out of the case, much less resolution than what she was really mistress of, would, perhaps, have served her; but it is no unusual thing to ascribe those actions entirely to fear, which are in a great measure produced by love.
In pursuance, therefore, of her father's peremptory command, Sophia now admitted Mr Blifil's visit. Scenes like this, when painted at large, afford, as we have observed, very little entertainment to the reader. Here, therefore, we shall strictly adhere to a rule of Horace; by which writers are directed to pass over all those matters which they despair of placing in a shining light;—a rule, we conceive, of excellent use as well to the historian as to the poet; and which, if followed, must at least have this good effect, that many a great evil (for so all great books are called) would thus be reduced to a small one.
It is possible the great art used by Blifil at this interview would have prevailed on Sophia to have made another man in his circumstances her confident, and to have revealed the whole secret of her heart to him; but she had contracted so ill an opinion of this young gentleman, that she was resolved to place no confidence in him; for simplicity, when set on its guard, is often a match for cunning. Her behaviour to him, therefore, was entirely forced, and indeed such as is generally prescribed to virgins upon the second formal visit from one who is appointed for their husband.
But though Blifil declared himself to the squire perfectly satisfied with his reception; yet that gentleman, who, in company with his sister, had overheard all, was not so well pleased. He resolved, in pursuance of the advice of the sage lady, to push matters as forward as possible; and addressing himself to his intended son-in-law in the hunting phrase, he cried, after a loud holla, "Follow her, boy, follow her; run in, run in; that's it, honeys. Dead, dead, dead. Never be bashful, nor stand shall I, shall I? Allworthy and I can finish all matters between us this afternoon, and let us ha' the wedding to-morrow."
Blifil having conveyed the utmost satisfaction into his countenance, answered, "As there is nothing, sir, in this world which I so eagerly desire as an alliance with your family, except my union with the most amiable and deserving Sophia, you may easily imagine how impatient I must be to see myself in possession of my two highest wishes. If I have not therefore importuned you on this head, you will impute it only to my fear of offending the lady, by endeavouring to hurry on so blessed an event faster than a strict compliance with all the rules of decency and decorum will permit. But if, by your interest, sir, she might be induced to dispense with any formalities—"
"Formalities! with a pox!" answered the squire. "Pooh, all stuff and nonsense! I tell thee, she shall ha' thee to-morrow: you will know the world better hereafter, when you come to my age. Women never gi' their consent, man, if they can help it, 'tis not the fashion. If I had stayed for her mother's consent, I might have been a batchelor to this day.—To her, to her, co to her, that's it, you jolly dog. I tell thee shat ha' her to-morrow morning."
Blifil suffered himself to be overpowered by the forcible rhetoric of the squire; and it being agreed that Western should close with Allworthy that very afternoon, the lover departed home, having first earnestly begged that no violence might be offered to the lady by this haste, in the same manner as a popish inquisitor begs the lay power to do no violence to the heretic delivered over to it, and against whom the church hath passed sentence.
And, to say the truth, Blifil had passed sentence against Sophia; for, however pleased he had declared himself to Western with his reception, he was by no means satisfied, unless it was that he was convinced of the hatred and scorn of his mistress: and this had produced no less reciprocal hatred and scorn in him. It may, perhaps, be asked, Why then did he not put an immediate end to all further courtship? I answer, for that very reason, as well as for several others equally good, which we shall now proceed to open to the reader.
Though Mr Blifil was not of the complexion of Jones, nor ready to eat every woman he saw; yet he was far from being destitute of that appetite which is said to be the common property of all animals. With this, he had likewise that distinguishing taste, which serves to direct men in their choice of the object or food of their several appetites; and this taught him to consider Sophia as a most delicious morsel, indeed to regard her with the same desires which an ortolan inspires into the soul of an epicure. Now the agonies which affected the mind of Sophia, rather augmented than impaired her beauty; for her tears added brightness to her eyes, and her breasts rose higher with her sighs. Indeed, no one hath seen beauty in its highest lustre who hath never seen it in distress. Blifil therefore looked on this human ortolan with greater desire than when he viewed her last; nor was his desire at all lessened by the aversion which he discovered in her to himself. On the contrary, this served rather to heighten the pleasure he proposed in rifling her charms, as it added triumph to lust; nay, he had some further views, from obtaining the absolute possession of her person, which we detest too much even to mention; and revenge itself was not without its share in the gratifications which he promised himself. The rivalling poor Jones, and supplanting him in her affections, added another spur to his pursuit, and promised another additional rapture to his enjoyment.
Besides all these views, which to some scrupulous persons may seem to savour too much of malevolence, he had one prospect, which few readers will regard with any great abhorrence. And this was the estate of Mr Western; which was all to be settled on his daughter and her issue; for so extravagant was the affection of that fond parent, that, provided his child would but consent to be miserable with the husband he chose, he cared not at what price he purchased him.
For these reasons Mr Blifil was so desirous of the match that he intended to deceive Sophia, by pretending love to her; and to deceive her father and his own uncle, by pretending he was beloved by her. In doing this he availed himself of the piety of Thwackum, who held, that if the end proposed was religious (as surely matrimony is), it mattered not how wicked were the means. As to other occasions, he used to apply the philosophy of Square, which taught, that the end was immaterial, so that the means were fair and consistent with moral rectitude. To say truth, there were few occurrences in life on which he could not draw advantage from the precepts of one or other of those great masters.
Little deceit was indeed necessary to be practised on Mr Western; who thought the inclinations of his daughter of as little consequence as Blifil himself conceived them to be; but as the sentiments of Mr Allworthy were of a very different kind, so it was absolutely necessary to impose on him. In this, however, Blifil was so well assisted by Western, that he succeeded without difficulty; for as Mr Allworthy had been assured by her father that Sophia had a proper affection for Blifil, and that all which he had suspected concerning Jones was entirely false, Blifil had nothing more to do than to confirm these assertions; which he did with such equivocations, that he preserved a salvo for his conscience; and had the satisfaction of conveying a lie to his uncle, without the guilt of telling one. When he was examined touching the inclinations of Sophia by Allworthy, who said, "He would on no account be accessary to forcing a young lady into a marriage contrary to her own will;" he answered, "That the real sentiments of young ladies were very difficult to be understood; that her behaviour to him was full as forward as he wished it, and that if he could believe her father, she had all the affection for him which any lover could desire. As for Jones," said he, "whom I am loth to call villain, though his behaviour to you, sir, sufficiently justifies the appellation, his own vanity, or perhaps some wicked views, might make him boast of a falsehood; for if there had been any reality in Miss Western's love to him, the greatness of her fortune would never have suffered him to desert her, as you are well informed he hath. Lastly, sir, I promise you I would not myself, for any consideration, no, not for the whole world, consent to marry this young lady, if I was not persuaded she had all the passion for me which I desire she should have."
This excellent method of conveying a falsehood with the heart only, without making the tongue guilty of an untruth, by the means of equivocation and imposture, hath quieted the conscience of many a notable deceiver; and yet, when we consider that it is Omniscience on which these endeavour to impose, it may possibly seem capable of affording only a very superficial comfort; and that this artful and refined distinction between communicating a lie, and telling one, is hardly worth the pains it costs them.
Allworthy was pretty well satisfied with what Mr Western and Mr Blifil told him: and the treaty was now, at the end of two days, concluded. Nothing then remained previous to the office of the priest, but the office of the lawyers, which threatened to take up so much time, that Western offered to bind himself by all manner of covenants, rather than defer the happiness of the young couple. Indeed, he was so very earnest and pressing, that an indifferent person might have concluded he was more a principal in this match than he really was; but this eagerness was natural to him on all occasions: and he conducted every scheme he undertook in such a manner, as if the success of that alone was sufficient to constitute the whole happiness of his life.
The joint importunities of both father and son-in-law would probably have prevailed on Mr Allworthy, who brooked but ill any delay of giving happiness to others, had not Sophia herself prevented it, and taken measures to put a final end to the whole treaty, and to rob both church and law ofwhich these wise bodies have thought proper to receive from the propagation of the human species in a lawful manner. Of which in the next chapter.
- A strange resolution of Sophia, and a more strange stratagem of Mrs Honour.
Though Mrs Honour was principally attached to her own interest, she was not without some little attachment to Sophia. To say truth, it was very difficult for any one to know that young lady without loving her. She no sooner therefore heard a piece of news, which she imagined to be of great importance to her mistress, than, quite forgetting the anger which she had conceived two days before, at her unpleasant dismission from Sophia's presence, she ran hastily to inform her of the news.
The beginning of her discourse was as abrupt as her entrance into the room. "O dear ma'am!" says she, "what doth your la'ship think? To be sure I am frightened out of my wits; and yet I thought it my duty to tell your la'ship, though perhaps it may make you angry, for we servants don't always know what will make our ladies angry; for, to be sure, everything is always laid to the charge of a servant. When our ladies are out of humour, to be sure we must be scolded; and to be sure I should not wonder if your la'ship should be out of humour; nay, it must surprize you certainly, ay, and shock you too."—"Good Honour, let me know it without any longer preface," says Sophia; "there are few things, I promise you, which will surprize, and fewer which will shock me."—"Dear ma'am," answered Honour, "to be sure, I overheard my master talking to parson Supple about getting a licence this very afternoon; and to be sure I heard him say, your la'ship should be married to-morrow morning." Sophia turned pale at these words, and repeated eagerly, "To-morrow morning!"—"Yes, ma'am," replied the trusty waiting-woman, "I will take my oath I heard my master say so."—"Honour," says Sophia, "you have both surprized and shocked me to such a degree that I have scarce any breath or spirits left. What is to be done in my dreadful situation?"—"I wish I was able to advise your la'ship," says she. "Do advise me," cries Sophia; "pray, dear Honour, advise me. Think what you would attempt if it was your own case."—"Indeed, ma'am," cries Honour, "I wish your la'ship and I could change situations; that is, I mean without hurting your la'ship; for to be sure I don't wish you so bad as to be a servant; but because that if so be it was my case, I should find no manner of difficulty in it; for, in my poor opinion, young Squire Blifil is a charming, sweet, handsome man."—"Don't mention such stuff," cries Sophia. "Such stuff!" repeated Honour; "why, there. Well, to be sure, what's one man's meat is another man's poison, and the same is altogether as true of women."—"Honour," says Sophia, "rather than submit to be the wife of that contemptible wretch, I would plunge a dagger into my heart."—"O lud! ma'am!" answered the other, "I am sure you frighten me out of my wits now. Let me beseech your la'ship not to suffer such wicked thoughts to come into your head. O lud! to be sure I tremble every inch of me. Dear ma'am, consider, that to be denied Christian burial, and to have your corpse buried in the highway, and a stake drove through you, as farmer Halfpenny was served at Ox Cross; and, to be sure, his ghost hath walked there ever since, for several people have seen him. To be sure it can be nothing but the devil which can put such wicked thoughts into the head of anybody; for certainly it is less wicked to hurt all the world than one's own dear self; and so I have heard said by more parsons than one. If your la'ship hath such a violent aversion, and hates the young gentleman so very bad, that you can't bear to think of going into bed to him; for to be sure there may be such antipathies in nature, and one had lieverer touch a toad than the flesh of some people."—
Sophia had been too much wrapt in contemplation to pay any great attention to the foregoing excellent discourse of her maid; interrupting her therefore, without making any answer to it, she said, "Honour, I am come to a resolution. I am determined to leave my father's house this very night; and if you have the friendship for me which you have often professed, you will keep me company."—"That I will, ma'am, to the world's end," answered Honour; "but I beg your la'ship to consider the consequence before you undertake any rash action. Where can your la'ship possibly go?"—"There is," replied Sophia, "a lady of quality in London, a relation of mine, who spent several months with my aunt in the country; during all which time she treated me with great kindness, and expressed so much pleasure in my company, that she earnestly desired my aunt to suffer me to go with her to London. As she is a woman of very great note, I shall easily find her out, and I make no doubt of being very well and kindly received by her."—"I would not have your la'ship too confident of that," cries Honour; "for the first lady I lived with used to invite people very earnestly to her house; but if she heard afterwards they were coming, she used to get out of the way. Besides, though this lady would be very glad to see your la'ship, as to be sure anybody would be glad to see your la'ship, yet when she hears your la'ship is run away from my master—" "You are mistaken, Honour," says Sophia: "she looks upon the authority of a father in a much lower light than I do; for she pressed me violently to go to London with her, and when I refused to go without my father's consent, she laughed me to scorn, called me silly country girl, and said, I should make a pure loving wife, since I could be so dutiful a daughter. So I have no doubt but she will both receive me and protect me too, till my father, finding me out of his power, can be brought to some reason."
"Well, but, ma'am," answered Honour, "how doth your la'ship think of making your escape? Where will you get any horses or conveyance? For as for your own horse, as all the servants know a little how matters stand between my master and your la'ship, Robin will be hanged before he will suffer it to go out of the stable without my master's express orders." "I intend to escape," said Sophia, "by walking out of the doors when they are open. I thank Heaven my legs are very able to carry me. They have supported me many a long evening"—"Yes, to be sure," cries Honour, "I will follow your la'ship through the world; but your la'ship had almost as good be alone: for I should not be able to defend you, if any robbers, or other villains, should meet with you. Nay, I should be in as horrible a fright as your la'ship; for to be certain, they would ravish us both. Besides, ma'am, consider how cold the nights are now; we shall be frozen to death."—"A good brisk pace," answered Sophia, "will preserve us from the cold; and if you cannot defend me from a villain, Honour, I will defend you; for I will take a pistol with me. There are two always charged in the hall."—"Dear ma'am, you frighten me more and more," cries Honour: "sure your la'ship would not venture to fire it off! I had rather run any chance than your la'ship should do that."—"Why so?" says Sophia, smiling; "would not you, Honour, fire a pistol at any one who should attack your virtue?"—"To be sure, ma'am," cries Honour, "one's virtue is a dear thing, especially to us poor servants; for it is our livelihood, as a body may say: yet I mortally hate fire-arms; for so many accidents happen by them."—"Well, well," says Sophia, "I believe I may ensure your virtue at a very cheap rate, without carrying any arms with us; for I intend to take horses at the very first town we come to, and we shall hardly be attacked in our way thither. Look'ee, Honour, I am resolved to go; and if you will attend me, I promise you I will reward you to the very utmost of my power."
This last argument had a stronger effect on Honour than all the preceding. And since she saw her mistress so determined, she desisted from any further dissuasions. They then entered into a debate on ways and means of executing their project. Here a very stubborn difficulty occurred, and this was the removal of their effects, which was much more easily got over by the mistress than by the maid; for when a lady hath once taken a resolution to run to a lover, or to run from him, all obstacles are considered as trifles. But Honour was inspired by no such motive; she had no raptures to expect, nor any terrors to shun; and besides the real value of her clothes, in which consisted a great part of her fortune, she had a capricious fondness for several gowns, and other things; either because they became her, or because they were given her by such a particular person; because she had bought them lately, or because she had had them long; or for some other reasons equally good; so that she could not endure the thoughts of leaving the poor things behind her exposed to the mercy of Western, who, she doubted not, would in his rage make them suffer martyrdom.
The ingenious Mrs Honour having applied all her oratory to dissuade her mistress from her purpose, when she found her positively determined, at last started the following expedient to remove her clothes, viz., to get herself turned out of doors that very evening. Sophia highly approved this method, but doubted how it might be brought about. "O, ma'am," cries Honour, "your la'ship may trust that to me; we servants very well know how to obtain this favour of our masters and mistresses; though sometimes, indeed, where they owe us more wages than they can readily pay, they will put up with all our affronts, and will hardly take any warning we can give them; but the squire is none of those; and since your la'ship is resolved upon setting out to-night, I warrant I get discharged this afternoon." It was then resolved that she should pack up some linen and a night-gown for Sophia, with her own things; and as for all her other clothes, the young lady abandoned them with no more remorse than the sailor feels when he throws over the goods of others, in order to save his own life.
- Containing scenes of altercation, of no very uncommon kind.
Mrs Honour had scarce sooner parted from her young lady, than something (for I would not, like the old woman in Quevedo, injure the devil by any false accusation, and possibly he might have no hand in it)—but something, I say, suggested itself to her, that by sacrificing Sophia and all her secrets to Mr Western, she might probably make her fortune. Many considerations urged this discovery. The fair prospect of a handsome reward for so great and acceptable a service to the squire, tempted her avarice; and again, the danger of the enterprize she had undertaken; the uncertainty of its success; night, cold, robbers, ravishers, all alarmed her fears. So forcibly did all these operate upon her, that she was almost determined to go directly to the squire, and to lay open the whole affair. She was, however, too upright a judge to decree on one side, before she had heard the other. And here, first, a journey to London appeared very strongly in support of Sophia. She eagerly longed to see a place in which she fancied charms short only of those which a raptured saint imagines in heaven. In the next place, as she knew Sophia to have much more generosity than her master, so her fidelity promised her a greater reward than she could gain by treachery. She then cross-examined all the articles which had raised her fears on the other side, and found, on fairly sifting the matter, that there was very little in them. And now both scales being reduced to a pretty even balance, her love to her mistress being thrown into the scale of her integrity, made that rather preponderate, when a circumstance struck upon her imagination which might have had a dangerous effect, had its whole weight been fairly put into the other scale. This was the length of time which must intervene before Sophia would be able to fulfil her promises; for though she was intitled to her mother's fortune at the death of her father, and to the sum of £3000 left her by an uncle when she came of age; yet these were distant days, and many accidents might prevent the intended generosity of the young lady; whereas the rewards she might expect from Mr Western were immediate. But while she was pursuing this thought the good genius of Sophia, or that which presided over the integrity of Mrs Honour, or perhaps mere chance, sent an accident in her way, which at once preserved her fidelity, and even facilitated the intended business.
Mrs Western's maid claimed great superiority over Mrs Honour on several accounts. First, her birth was higher; for her great-grandmother by the mother's side was a cousin, not far removed, to an Irish peer. Secondly, her wages were greater. And lastly, she had been at London, and had of consequence seen more of the world. She had always behaved, therefore, to Mrs Honour with that reserve, and had always exacted of her those marks of distinction, which every order of females preserves and requires in conversation with those of an inferior order. Now as Honour did not at all times agree with this doctrine, but would frequently break in upon the respect which the other demanded, Mrs Western's maid was not at all pleased with her company; indeed, she earnestly longed to return home to the house of her mistress, where she domineered at will over all the other servants. She had been greatly, therefore, disappointed in the morning, when Mrs Western had changed her mind on the very point of departure; and had been in what is vulgarly called a glouting humour ever since.
In this humour, which was none of the sweetest, she came into the room where Honour was debating with herself in the manner we have above related. Honour no sooner saw her, than she addressed her in the following obliging phrase: "Soh, madam, I find we are to have the pleasure of your company longer, which I was afraid the quarrel between my master and your lady would have robbed us of."—"I don't know, madam," answered the other, "what you mean by we and us. I assure you I do not look on any of the servants in this house to be proper company for me. I am company, I hope, for their betters every day in the week. I do not speak on your account, Mrs Honour; for you are a civilized young woman; and when you have seen a little more of the world, I should not be ashamed to walk with you in St James's Park."—"Hoity toity!" cries Honour, "madam is in her airs, I protest. Mrs Honour, forsooth! sure, madam, you might call me by my sir-name;* for though my lady calls me Honour, I have a sir-name as well as other folks. Ashamed to walk with me, quotha! marry, as good as yourself, I hope."—"Since you make such a return to my civility," said the other, "I must acquaint you, Mrs Honour, that you are not so good as me. In the country, indeed, one is obliged to take up with all kind of trumpery; but in town I visit none but the women of women of quality. Indeed, Mrs Honour, there is some difference, I hope, between you and me."—"I hope so too," answered Honour: "there is some difference in our ages, and—I think in our persons." Upon speaking which last words, she strutted by Mrs Western's maid with the most provoking air of contempt; turning up her nose, tossing her head, and violently brushing the hoop of her competitor with her own. The other lady put on one of her most malicious sneers, and said, "Creature! you are below my anger; and it is beneath me to give ill words to such an audacious saucy trollop; but, hussy, I must tell you, your breeding shows the meanness of your birth as well as of your education; and both very properly qualify you to be the mean serving-woman of a country girl."—"Don't abuse my lady," cries Honour: "I won't take that of you; she's as much better than yours as she is younger, and ten thousand times more handsomer."
Here ill luck, or rather good luck, sent Mrs Western to see her maid in tears, which began to flow plentifully at her approach; and of which being asked the reason by her mistress, she presently acquainted her that her tears were occasioned by the rude treatment of that creature there—meaning Honour. "And, madam," continued she, "I could have despised all she said to me; but she hath had the audacity to affront your ladyship, and to call you ugly—Yes, madam, she called you ugly old cat to my face. I could not bear to hear your ladyship called ugly."—"Why do you repeat her impudence so often?" said Mrs Western. And then turning to Mrs Honour, she asked her "How she had the assurance to mention her name with disrespect?"—"Disrespect, madam!" answered Honour; "I never mentioned your name at all: I said somebody was not as handsome as my mistress, and to be sure you know that as well as I."—"Hussy," replied the lady, "I will make such a saucy trollop as yourself know that I am not a proper subject of your discourse. And if my brother doth not discharge you this moment, I will never sleep in his house again. I will find him out, and have you discharged this moment."—"Discharged!" cries Honour; "and suppose I am: there are more places in the world than one. Thank Heaven, good servants need not want places; and if you turn away all who do not think you handsome, you will want servants very soon; let me tell you that."
Mrs Western spoke, or rather thundered, in answer; but as she was hardly articulate, we cannot be very certain of the identical words; we shall therefore omit inserting a speech which at best would not greatly redound to her honour. She then departed in search of her brother, with a countenance so full of rage, that she resembled one of the furies rather than a human creature.
The two chambermaids being again left alone, began a second bout at altercation, which soon produced a combat of a more active kind. In this the victory belonged to the lady of inferior rank, but not without some loss of blood, of hair, and of lawn and muslin.
- The wise demeanour of Mr Western in the character of a magistrate. A hint to justices of peace, concerning the necessary qualifications of a clerk; with extraordinary instances of paternal madness and filial affection.
Logicians sometimes prove too much by an argument, and politicians often overreach themselves in a scheme. Thus had it like to have happened to Mrs Honour, who, instead of recovering the rest of her clothes, had like to have stopped even those she had on her back from escaping; for the squire no sooner heard of her having abused his sister, than he swore twenty oaths he would send her to Bridewell.
Mrs Western was a very good-natured woman, and ordinarily of a forgiving temper. She had lately remitted the trespass of a stage-coachman, who had overturned her post-chaise into a ditch; nay, she had even broken the law, in refusing to prosecute a highwayman who had robbed her, not only of a sum of money, but of her ear-rings; at the same time d—ning her, and saying, "Such handsome b—s as you don't want jewels to set them off, and be d—n'd to you." But now, so uncertain are our tempers, and so much do we at different times differ from ourselves, she would hear of no mitigation; nor could all the affected penitence of Honour, nor all the entreaties of Sophia for her own servant, prevail with her to desist from earnestly desiring her brother to execute justiceship (for it was indeed a syllable more than justice) on the wench.
But luckily the clerk had a qualification, which no clerk to a justice of peace ought ever to be without, namely, some understanding in the law of this realm. He therefore whispered in the ear of the justice that he would exceed his authority by committing the girl to Bridewell, as there had been no attempt to break the peace; "for I am afraid, sir," says he, "you cannot legally commit any one to Bridewell only for ill-breeding."
In matters of high importance, particularly in cases relating to the game, the justice was not always attentive to these admonitions of his clerk; for, indeed, in executing the laws under that head, many justices of peace suppose they have a large discretionary power, by virtue of which, under the notion of searching for and taking away engines for the destruction of the game, they often commit trespasses, and sometimes felony, at their pleasure.
But this offence was not of quite so high a nature, nor so dangerous to the society. Here, therefore, the justice behaved with some attention to the advice of his clerk; for, in fact, he had already had two informations exhibited against him in the King's Bench, and had no curiosity to try a third.
The squire, therefore, putting on a most wise and significant countenance, after a preface of several hums and hahs, told his sister, that upon more mature deliberation, he was of opinion, that "as there was no breaking up of the peace, such as the law," says he, "calls breaking open a door, or breaking a hedge, or breaking a head, or any such sort of breaking, the matter did not amount to a felonious kind of a thing, nor trespasses, nor damages, and, therefore, there was no punishment in the law for it."
Mrs Western said, "she knew the law much better; that she had known servants very severely punished for affronting their masters;" and then named a certain justice of the peace in London, "who," she said, "would commit a servant to Bridewell at any time when a master or mistress desired it."
"Like enough," cries the squire; "it may be so in London; but the law is different in the country." Here followed a very learned dispute between the brother and sister concerning the law, which we would insert, if we imagined many of our readers could understand it. This was, however, at length referred by both parties to the clerk, who decided it in favour of the magistrate; and Mrs Western was, in the end, obliged to content herself with the satisfaction of having Honour turned away; to which Sophia herself very readily and cheerfully consented.
Thus Fortune, after having diverted herself, according to custom, with two or three frolicks, at last disposed all matters to the advantage of our heroine; who indeed succeeded admirably well in her deceit, considering it was the first she had ever practised. And, to say the truth, I have often concluded, that the honest part of mankind would be much too hard for the knavish, if they could bring themselves to incur the guilt, or thought it worth their while to take the trouble.
Honour acted her part to the utmost perfection. She no sooner saw herself secure from all danger of Bridewell, a word which had raised most horrible ideas in her mind, than she resumed those airs which her terrors before had a little abated; and laid down her place, with as much affectation of content, and indeed of contempt, as was ever practised at the resignation of places of much greater importance. If the reader pleases, therefore, we chuse rather to say she resigned—which hath, indeed, been always held a synonymous expression with being turned out, or turned away.
Mr Western ordered her to be very expeditious in packing; for his sister declared she would not sleep another night under the same roof with so impudent a slut. To work therefore she went, and that so earnestly, that everything was ready early in the evening; when, having received her wages, away packed bag and baggage, to the greatsatisfaction of every one, but of none more than of Sophia; who, having appointed her maid to meet her at a certain place not far from the house, exactly at the dreadful and ghostly hour of twelve, began to prepare for her own departure.
But first she was obliged to give two painful audiences, the one to her aunt, and the other to her father. In these Mrs Western herself began to talk to her in a more peremptory stile than before: but her father treated her in so violent and outrageous a manner, that he frightened her into an affected compliance with his will; which so highly pleased the good squire, that he changed his frowns into smiles, and his menaces into promises: he vowed his whole soul was wrapt in hers; that her consent (for so he construed the words, "You know, sir, I must not, nor can, refuse to obey any absolute command of yours") had made him the happiest of mankind. He then gave her a large bank-bill to dispose of in any trinkets she pleased, and kissed and embraced her in the fondest manner, while tears of joy trickled from those eyes which a few moments before had darted fire and rage against the dear object of all his affection.
Instances of this behaviour in parents are so common, that the reader, I doubt not, will be very little astonished at the whole conduct of Mr Western. If he should, I own I am not able to account for it; since that he loved his daughter most tenderly, is, I think, beyond dispute. So indeed have many others, who have rendered their children most completely miserable by the same conduct; which, though it is almost universal in parents, hath always appeared to me to be the most unaccountable of all the absurdities which ever entered into the brain of that strange prodigious creature man.*
The latter part of Mr Western's behaviour had so strong an effect on the tender heart of Sophia, that it suggested a thought to her, which not all the sophistry of her politic aunt, nor all the menaces of her father, had ever once brought into her head. She reverenced her father so piously, and loved him so passionately, that she had scarce ever felt more pleasing sensations, than what arose from the share she frequently had of contributing to his amusement, and sometimes, perhaps, to higher gratifications; for he never could contain the delight of hearing her commended, which he had the satisfaction of hearing almost every day of her life. The idea, therefore, of the immense happiness she should convey to her father by her consent to this match, made a strong impression on her mind. Again, the extreme piety of such an act of obedience worked very forcibly, as she had a very deep sense of religion. Lastly, when she reflected how much she herself was to suffer, being indeed to become little less than a sacrifice, or a martyr, to filial love and duty, she felt an agreeable tickling in a certain little passion, which though it bears no immediate affinity either to religion or virtue, is often so kind as to lend great assistance in executing the purposes of both.
Sophia was charmed with the contemplation of so heroic an action, and began to compliment herself with much premature flattery, when Cupid, who lay hid in her muff, suddenly crept out, and like Punchinello in a puppet-show, kicked all out before him. In truth (for we scorn to deceive our reader, or to vindicate the character of our heroine by ascribing her actions to supernatural impulse) the thoughts of her beloved Jones, and some hopes (however distant) in which he was very particularly concerned, immediately destroyed all which filial love, piety, and pride had, with their joint endeavours, been labouring to bring about.
But before we proceed any farther with Sophia, we must now look back to Mr Jones.
- Containing several matters, natural enough perhaps, but low.
The reader will be pleased to remember, that we left Mr Jones, in the beginning of this book, on his road to Bristol; being determined to seek his fortune at sea, or rather, indeed, to fly away from his fortune on shore.
It happened (a thing not very unusual), that the guide who undertook to conduct him on his way, was unluckily unacquainted with the road; so that having missed his right track, and being ashamed to ask information, he rambled about backwards and forwards till night came on, and it began to grow dark. Jones suspecting what had happened, acquainted the guide with his apprehensions; but he insisted on it, that they were in the right road, and added, it would be very strange if he should not know the road to Bristol; though, in reality, it would have been much stranger if he had known it, having never past through it in his life before.
Jones had not such implicit faith in his guide, but that on their arrival at a village he inquired of the first fellow he saw, whether they were in the road to Bristol. "Whence did you come?" cries the fellow. "No matter," says Jones, a little hastily; "I want to know if this be the road to Bristol?"—"The road to Bristol!" cries the fellow, scratching his head: "why, measter, I believe you will hardly get to Bristol this way to-night."—"Prithee, friend, then," answered Jones, "do tell us which is the way."—"Why, measter," cries the fellow, "you must be come out of your road the Lord knows whither; for thick way goeth to Glocester."—"Well, and which way goes to Bristol?" said Jones. "Why, you be going away from Bristol," answered the fellow. "Then," said Jones, "we must go back again?"—"Ay, you must," said the fellow. "Well, and when we come back to the top of the hill, which way must we take?"—"Why, you must keep the strait road."—"But I remember there are two roads, one to the right and the other to the left."—"Why, you must keep the right-hand road, and then gu strait vorwards; only remember to turn vurst to your right, and then to your left again, and then to your right, and that brings you to the squire's; and then you must keep strait vorwards, and turn to the left."
Another fellow now came up, and asked which way the gentlemen were going; of which being informed by Jones, he first scratched his head, and then leaning upon a pole he had in his hand, began to tell him, "That he must keep the right-hand road for about a mile, or a mile and a half, or such a matter, and then he must turn short to the left, which would bring him round by Measter Jin Bearnes's."—"But which is Mr John Bearnes's?" says Jones. "O Lord!" cries the fellow, "why, don't you know Measter Jin Bearnes? Whence then did you come?"
These two fellows had almost conquered the patience of Jones, when a plain well-looking man (who was indeed a Quaker) accosted him thus: "Friend, I perceive thou hast lost thy way; and if thou wilt take my advice, thou wilt not attempt to find it to-night. It is almost dark, and the road is difficult to hit; besides, there have been several robberies committed lately between this and Bristol. Here is a very creditable good house just by, where thou may'st find good entertainment for thyself and thy till morning." Jones, after a little persuasion, agreed to stay in this place till the morning, and was conducted by his friend to the public-house.
The landlord, who was a very civil fellow, told Jones, "He hoped he would excuse the badness of his accommodation; for that his wife was gone from home, and had locked up almost everything, and carried the keys along with her." Indeed the fact was, that a favourite daughter of hers was just married, and gone that morning home with her husband; and that she and her mother together had almost stript the poor man of all his goods, as well as money; for though he had several children, this daughter only, who was the mother's favourite, was the object of her consideration; and to the humour of this one child she would with pleasure have sacrificed all the rest, and her husband into the bargain.
Though Jones was very unfit for any kind of company, and would have preferred being alone, yet he could not resist the importunities of the honest Quaker; who was the more desirous of sitting with him, from having remarked the melancholy which appeared both in his countenance and behaviour; and which the poor Quaker thought his conversation might in some measure relieve.
After they had past some time together, in such a manner that my honest friend might have thought himself at one of his silent meetings, the Quaker began to be moved by some spirit or other, probably that of curiosity, and said, "Friend, I perceive some sad disaster hath befallen thee; but pray be of comfort. Perhaps thou hast lost a friend. If so, thou must consider we are all mortal. And why shouldst thou grieve, when thou knowest thy grief will do thy friend no good? We are all born to affliction. I myself have my sorrows as well as thee, and most probably greater sorrows. Though I have a clear estate of £100 a year, which is as much as I want, and I have a conscience, I thank the Lord, void of offence; my constitution is sound and strong, and there is no man can demand a debt of me, nor accuse me of an injury; yet, friend, I should be concerned to think thee as miserable as myself."
Here the Quaker ended with a deep sigh; and Jones presently answered, "I am very sorry, sir, for your unhappiness, whatever is the occasion of it."—"Ah! friend," replied the Quaker, "one only daughter is the occasion; one who was my greatest delight upon earth, and who within this week is run away from me, and is married against my consent. I had provided her a proper match, a sober man and one of substance; but she, forsooth, would chuse for herself, and away she is gone with a young fellow not worth a groat. If she had been dead, as I suppose thy friend is, I should have been happy."—"That is very strange, sir," said Jones. "Why, would it not be better for her to be dead, than to be a beggar?" replied the Quaker: "for, as I told you, the fellow is not worth a groat; and surely she cannot expect that I shall ever give her a shilling. No, as she hath married for love, let her live on love if she can; let her carry her love to market, and see whether any one will change it into silver, or even into halfpence."—"You know your own concerns best, sir," said Jones. "It must have been," continued the Quaker, "a long premeditated scheme to cheat me: for they have known one another from their infancy; and I always preached to her against love, and told her a thousand times over it was all folly and wickedness. Nay, the cunning slut pretended to hearken to me, and to despise all wantonness of the flesh; and yet at last broke out at a window two pair of stairs: for I began, indeed, a little to suspect her, and had locked her up carefully, intending the very next morning to have married her up to my liking. But she disappointed me within a few hours, and escaped away to the lover of her own chusing; who lost no time, for they were married and bedded and all within an hour. But it shall be the worst hour's work for them both that ever they did; for they may starve, or beg, or steal together, for me. I will never give either of them a farthing." Here Jones starting up cried, "I really must be excused: I wish you would leave me."—"Come, come, friend," said the Quaker, "don't give way to concern. You see there are other people miserable besides yourself."—"I see there are madmen, and fools, and villains in the world," cries Jones. "But let me give you a piece of advice: send for your daughter and son-in-law home, and don't be yourself the only cause of misery to one you pretend to love."—"Send for her and her husband home!" cries the Quaker loudly; "I would sooner send for the two greatest enemies I have in the world!"—"Well, go home yourself, or where you please," said Jones, "for I will sit no longer in such company."—"Nay, friend," answered the Quaker, "I scorn to impose my company on any one." He then offered to pull money from his pocket, but Jones pushed him with some violence out of the room.
The subject of the Quaker's discourse had so deeply affected Jones, that he stared very wildly all the time he was speaking. This the Quaker had observed, and this, added to the rest of his behaviour, inspired honest Broadbrim with a conceit, that his companion was in reality out of his senses. Instead of resenting the affront, therefore, the Quaker was moved with compassion for his unhappy circumstances; and having communicated his opinion to the landlord, he desired him to take great care of his guest, and to treat him with the highest civility.
"Indeed," says the landlord, "I shall use no such civility towards him; for it seems, for all his laced waistcoat there, he is no more a gentleman than myself, but a poor parish bastard, bred up at a great squire's about thirty miles off, and now turned out of doors (not for any good to be sure). I shall get him out of my house as soon as possible. If I do lose my reckoning, the first loss is always the best. It is not above a year ago that I lost a silver spoon."
"What dost thou talk of a parish bastard, Robin?" answered the Quaker. "Thou must certainly be mistaken in thy man."
"Not at all," replied Robin; "the guide, who knows him very well, told it me." For, indeed, the guide had no sooner taken his place at the kitchen fire, than he acquainted the whole company with all he knew or had ever heard concerning Jones.
The Quaker was no sooner assured by this fellow of the birth and low fortune of Jones, than all compassion for him vanished; and the honest plain man went home fired with no less indignation than a duke would have felt at receiving an affront from such a person.
The landlord himself conceived an equal disdain for his guest; so that when Jones rung the bell in order to retire to bed, he was acquainted that he could have no bed there. Besides disdain of the mean condition of his guest, Robin entertained violent suspicion of his intentions, which were, he supposed, to watch some favourable opportunity of robbing the house. In reality, he might have been very well eased of these apprehensions, by the prudent precautions of his wife and daughter, who had already removed everything which was not fixed to the freehold; but he was by nature suspicious, and had been more particularly so since the loss of his spoon. In short, the dread of being robbed totally absorbed the comfortable consideration that he had nothing to lose.
Jones being assured that he could have no bed, very contentedly betook himself to a great chair made with rushes, when sleep, which had lately shunned his company in much better apartments, generously paid him a visit in his humble cell.
As for the landlord, he was prevented by his fears from retiring to rest. He returned therefore to the kitchen fire, whence he could survey the only door which opened into the parlour, or rather hole, where Jones was seated; and as for the window to that room, it was impossible for any creature larger than a cat to have made his escape through it.
- The adventure of a company of soldiers.
The landlord having taken his seat directly opposite to the door of the parlour, determined to keep guard there the whole night. The guide and another fellow remained long on duty with him, though they neither knew his suspicions, nor had any of their own. The true cause of their watching did, indeed, at length, put an end to it; for this was no other than the strength and goodness of the beer, of which having tippled a very large quantity, they grew at first very noisy and vociferous, and afterwards fell both asleep.
But it was not in the power of liquor to compose the fears of Robin. He continued still waking in his chair, with his eyes fixed stedfastly on the door which led into the apartment of Mr Jones, till a violent thundering at his outward gate called him from his seat, and obliged him to open it; which he had no sooner done, than his kitchen was immediately full of gentlemen in red coats, who all rushed upon him in as tumultuous a manner as if they intended to take his little castle by storm.
The landlord was now forced from his post to furnish his numerous guests with beer, which they called for with great eagerness; and upon his second or third return from the cellar, he saw Mr Jones standing before the fire in the midst of the soldiers; for it may easily be believed, that the arrival of so much good company should put an end to any sleep, unless that from which we are to be awakened only by the last trumpet.
The company having now pretty well satisfied their thirst, nothing remained but to pay the reckoning, a circumstance often productive of much mischief and discontent among the inferior rank of gentry, who are apt to find great difficulty in assessing the sum, with exact regard to distributive justice, which directs that every man shall pay according to the quantity which he drinks. This difficulty occurred upon the present occasion; and it was the greater, as some gentlemen had, in their extreme hurry, marched off, after their first draught, and had entirely forgot to contribute anything towards the said reckoning.
A violent dispute now arose, in which every word may be said to have been deposed upon oath; for the oaths were at least equal to all the other words spoken. In this controversy the whole company spoke together, and every man seemed wholly bent to extenuate the sum which fell to his share; so that the most probable conclusion which could be foreseen was, that a large portion of the reckoning would fall to the landlord's share to pay, or (what is much the same thing) would remain unpaid.
All this while Mr Jones was engaged in conversation with the serjeant; for that officer was entirely unconcerned in the present dispute, being privileged by immemorial custom from all contribution.
The dispute now grew so very warm that it seemed to draw towards a military decision, when Jones, stepping forward, silenced all their clamours at once, by declaring that he would pay the whole reckoning, which indeed amounted to no more than three shillings and fourpence.
This declaration procured Jones the thanks and applause of the whole company. The terms honourable, noble, and worthy gentleman, resounded through the room; nay, my landlord himself began to have a better opinion of him, and almost to disbelieve the account which the guide had given.
The serjeant had informed Mr Jones that they were marching against the rebels, and expected to be commanded by the glorious Duke of Cumberland. By which the reader may perceive (a circumstance which we have not thought necessary to communicate before) that this was the very time when the late rebellion was at the highest; and indeed the banditti were now marched into England, intending, as it was thought, to fight the king's forces, and to attempt pushing forward to the metropolis.
Jones had some heroic ingredients in his composition, and was a hearty well-wisher to the glorious cause of liberty, and of the Protestant religion. It is no wonder, therefore, that in circumstances which would have warranted a much more romantic and wild undertaking, it should occur to him to serve as a volunteer in this expedition.
Our commanding officer had said all in his power to encourage and promote this good disposition, from the first moment he had been acquainted with it. He now proclaimed the noble resolution aloud, which was received with great pleasure by the whole company, who all cried out, "God bless King George and your honour;" and then added, with many oaths, "We will stand by you both to the last drops of our blood."
The gentleman who had been all night tippling at the alehouse, was prevailed on by some arguments which a corporal had put into his hands, to undertake the same expedition. And now the portmanteau belonging to Mr Jones being put up in the baggage-cart, the forces were about to move forwards; when the guide, stepping up to Jones, said, "Sir, I hope you will consider that the horses have been kept out all night, and we have travelled a great ways out of our way." Jones was surprized at the impudence of this demand, and acquainted the soldiers with the merits of his cause, who were all unanimous in condemning the guide for his endeavours to put upon a gentleman. Some said, he ought to be tied neck and heels; others that he deserved to run the gantlope; and the serjeant shook his cane at him, and wished he had him under his command, swearing heartily he would make an example of him.
Jones contented himself however with a negative punishment, and walked off with his new comrades, leaving the guide to the poor revenge of cursing and reviling him; in which latter the landlord joined, saying, "Ay, ay, he is a pure one, I warrant you. A pretty gentleman, indeed, to go for a soldier! He shall wear a laced wastecoat truly. It is an old proverb and a true one, all is not gold that glisters. I am glad my house is well rid of him."
All that day the serjeant and the young soldier marched together; and the former, who was an arch fellow, told the latter many entertaining stories of his campaigns, though in reality he had never made any; for he was but lately come into the service, and had, by his own dexterity, so well ingratiated himself with his officers, that he had promoted himself to a halberd; chiefly indeed by his merit in recruiting, in which he was most excellently well skilled.
Much mirth and festivity passed among the soldiers during their march. In which the many occurrences that had passed at their last quarters were remembered, and every one, with great freedom, made what jokes he pleased on his officers, some of which were of the coarser kind, and very near bordering on scandal. This brought to our heroe's mind the custom which he had read of among the Greeks and Romans, of indulging, on certain festivals and solemn occasions, the liberty to slaves, of using an uncontrouled freedom of speech towards their masters.
Our little army, which consisted of two companies of foot, were now arrived at the place where they were to halt that evening. The serjeant then acquainted his lieutenant, who was the commanding officer, that they had picked up two fellows in that day's march, one of which, he said, was as fine a man as ever he saw (meaning the tippler), for that he was near six feet, well proportioned, and strongly limbed; and the other (meaning Jones) would do well enough for the rear rank.
The new soldiers were now produced before the officer, who having examined the six-feet man, he being first produced, came next to survey Jones: at the first sight of whom, the lieutenant could not help showing some surprize; for besides that he was very well dressed, and was naturally genteel, he had a remarkable air of dignity in his look, which is rarely seen among the vulgar, and is indeed not inseparably annexed to the features of their superiors.
"Sir," said the lieutenant, "my serjeant informed me that you are desirous of enlisting in the company I have at present under my command; if so, sir, we shall very gladly receive a gentleman who promises to do much honour to the company by bearing arms in it."
Jones answered: "That he had not mentioned anything of enlisting himself; that he was most zealously attached to the glorious cause for which they were going to fight, and was very desirous of serving as a volunteer;" concluding with some compliments to the lieutenant, and expressing the great satisfaction he should have in being under his command.
The lieutenant returned his civility, commended his resolution, shook him by the hand, and invited him to dine with himself and the rest of the officers.
- The adventure of a company of officers.
The lieutenant, whom we mentioned in the preceding chapter, and who commanded this party, was now near sixty years of age. He had entered very young into the army, and had served in the capacity of an ensign at the battle of Tannieres; here he had received two wounds, and had so well distinguished himself, that he was by the Duke of Marlborough advanced to be a lieutenant, immediately after that battle.
In this commission he had continued ever since, viz., near forty years; during which time he had seen vast numbers preferred over his head, and had now the mortification to be commanded by boys, whose fathers were at nurse when he first entered into the service.
Nor was this ill success in his profession solely owing to his having no friends among the men in power. He had the misfortune to incur the displeasure of his colonel, who for many years continued in the command of this regiment. Nor did he owe the implacable ill-will which this man bore him to any neglect or deficiency as an officer, nor indeed to any fault in himself; but solely to the indiscretion of his wife, who was a very beautiful woman, and who, though she was remarkably fond of her husband, would not purchase his preferment at the expense of certain favours which the colonel required of her.
The poor lieutenant was more peculiarly unhappy in this, that while he felt the effects of the enmity of his colonel, he neither knew, nor suspected, that he really bore him any; for he could not suspect an ill-will for which he was not conscious of giving any cause; and his wife, fearing what her husband's nice regard to his honour might have occasioned, contented herself with preserving her virtue without enjoying the triumphs of her conquest.
This unfortunate officer (for so I think he may be called) had many good qualities besides his merit in his profession; for he was a religious, honest, good-natured man; and had behaved so well in his command, that he was highly esteemed and beloved not only by the soldiers of his own company, but by the whole regiment.
The other officers who marched with him were a French lieutenant, who had been long enough out of France to forget his own language, but not long enough in England to learn ours, so that he really spoke no language at all, and could barely make himself understood on the most ordinary occasions. There were likewise two ensigns, both very young fellows; one of whom had been bred under an attorney, and the other was son to the wife of a nobleman's butler.
As soon as dinner was ended, Jones informed the company of the merriment which had passed among the soldiers upon their march; "and yet," says he, "notwithstanding all their vociferation, I dare swear they will behave more like Grecians than Trojans when they come to the enemy."—"Grecians and Trojans!" says one of the ensigns, "who the devil are they? I have heard of all the troops in Europe, but never of any such as these."
"Don't pretend to more ignorance than you have, Mr Northerton," said the worthy lieutenant. "I suppose you have heard of the Greeks and Trojans, though perhaps you never read Pope's Homer; who, I remember, now the gentleman mentions it, compares the march of the Trojans to the cackling of geese, and greatly commends the silence of the Grecians.* And upon my honour there is great justice in the cadet's observation."
"Begar, me remember dem ver well," said the French lieutenant: "me ave read them at school in dans Madam Daciere, des Greek, des Trojan, dey fight for von woman—ouy, ouy, me ave read all dat."
"D—n Homo with all my heart," says Northerton; "I have the marks of him on my a— yet. There's Thomas, of our regiment, always carries a Homo in his pocket; d—n me, if ever I come at it, if I don't burn it. And there's Corderius, another d—n'd son of a whore, that hath got me many a flogging."
"Then you have been at school, Mr Northerton?" said the lieutenant.
"Ay, d—n me, have I," answered he; "the devil take my father for sending me thither! The old put wanted to make a parson of me, but d—n me, thinks I to myself, I'll nick you there, old cull; the devil a smack of your nonsense shall you ever get into me. There's Jemmy Oliver, of our regiment, he narrowly escaped being a pimp too, and that would have been a thousand pities; for d—n me if he is not one of the prettiest fellows in the whole world; but he went farther than I with the old cull, for Jimmey can neither write nor read."
"You give your friend a very good character," said the lieutenant, "and a very deserved one, I dare say. But prithee, Northerton, leave off that foolish as well as wicked custom of swearing; for you are deceived, I promise you, if you think there is wit or politeness in it. I wish, too, you would take my advice, and desist from abusing the clergy. Scandalous names, and reflections cast on any body of men, must be always unjustifiable; but especially so, when thrown on so sacred a function; for to abuse the body is to abuse the function itself; and I leave to you to judge how inconsistent such behaviour is in men who are going to fight in defence of the Protestant religion."
Mr Adderly, which was the name of the other ensign, had sat hitherto kicking his heels and humming a tune, without seeming to listen to the discourse; he now answered, "."—"Well said, Jack," cries Northerton: "if la religion was the only matter, the parsons should fight their own battles for me."
"I don't know, gentlemen," said Jones, "what may be your opinion; but I think no man can engage in a nobler cause than that of his religion; and I have observed, in the little I have read of history, that no soldiers have fought so bravely as those who have been inspired with a religious zeal: for my own part, though I love my king and country, I hope, as well as any man in it, yet the Protestant interest is no small motive to my becoming a volunteer in the cause."
Northerton now winked on Adderly, and whispered to him slily, "Smoke the prig, Adderly, smoke him." Then turning to Jones, said to him, "I am very glad, sir, you have chosen our regiment to be a volunteer in; for if our parson should at any time take a cup too much, I find you can supply his place. I presume, sir, you have been at the university; may I crave the favour to know what college?"
"Sir," answered Jones, "so far from having been at the university, I have even had the advantage of yourself, for I was never at school."
"I presumed," cries the ensign, "only upon the information of your great learning."—"Oh! sir," answered Jones, "it is as possible for a man to know something without having been at school, as it is to have been at school and to know nothing."
"Well said, young volunteer," cries the lieutenant. "Upon my word, Northerton, you had better let him alone; for he will be too hard for you."
Northerton did not very well relish the sarcasm of Jones; but he thought the provocation was scarce sufficient to justify a blow, or a rascal, or scoundrel, which were the only repartees that suggested themselves. He was, therefore, silent at present; but resolved to take the first opportunity of returning the jest by abuse.
It now came to the turn of Mr Jones to give a toast, as it is called; who could not refrain from mentioning his dear Sophia. This he did the more readily, as he imagined it utterly impossible that any one present should guess the person he meant.
But the lieutenant, who was the toast-master, was not contented with Sophia only. He said, he must have her sir-name; upon which Jones hesitated a little, and presently after named Miss Sophia Western. Ensign Northerton declared he would not drink her health in the same round with his own toast, unless somebody would vouch for her. "I knew one Sophy Western," says he, "that was lain with by half the young fellows at Bath; and perhaps this is the same woman." Jones very solemnly assured him of the contrary; asserting that the young lady he named was one of great fashion and fortune. "Ay, ay," says the ensign, "and so she is: d—n me, it is the same woman; and I'll hold half a dozen of Burgundy, Tom French of our regiment brings her into company with us at any tavern in Bridges-street." He then proceeded to describe her person exactly (for he had seen her with her aunt), and concluded with saying, "that her father had a great estate in Somersetshire."
The tenderness of lovers can ill brook the least jesting with the names of their mistresses. However, Jones, though he had enough of the lover and of the heroe too in his disposition, did not resent these slanders as hastily as, perhaps, he ought to have done. To say the truth, having seen but little of this kind of wit, he did not readily understand it, and for a long time imagined Mr Northerton had really mistaken his charmer for some other. But now, turning to the ensign with a stern aspect, he said, "Pray, sir, chuse some other subject for your wit; for I promise you I will bear no jesting with this lady's character." "Jesting!" cries the other, "d—n me if ever I was more in earnest in my life. Tom French of our regiment had both her and her aunt at Bath." "Then I must tell you in earnest," cries Jones, "that you are one of the most impudent rascals upon earth."
He had no sooner spoken these words, than the ensign, together with a volley of curses, discharged a bottle full at the head of Jones, which hitting him a little above the right temple, brought him instantly to the ground.
The conqueror perceiving the enemy to lie motionless before him, and blood beginning to flow pretty plentifully from his wound, began now to think of quitting the field of battle, where no more honour was to be gotten; but the lieutenant interposed, by stepping before the door, and thus cut off his retreat.
Northerton was very importunate with the lieutenant for his liberty; urging the ill consequences of his stay, asking him, what he could have done less? "Zounds!" says he, "I was but in jest with the fellow. I never heard any harm of Miss Western in my life." "Have not you?" said the lieutenant; "then you richly deserve to be hanged, as well for making such jests, as for using such a weapon: you are my prisoner, sir; nor shall you stir from hence till a proper guard comes to secure you."
Such an ascendant had our lieutenant over this ensign, that all that fervency of courage which had levelled our poor heroe with the floor, would scarce have animated the said ensign to have drawn his sword against the lieutenant, had he then had one dangling at his side: but all the swords being hung up in the room, were, at the very beginning of the fray, secured by the French officer. So that Mr Northerton was obliged to attend the final issue of this affair.
The French gentleman and Mr Adderly, at the desire of their commanding officer, had raised up the body of Jones, but as they could perceive but little (if any) sign of life in him, they again let him fall, Adderly damning him for having blooded his wastecoat; and the Frenchman declaring, "Begar, me no tush the Engliseman de mort: me have heard de Englise ley, law, what you call, hang up de man dat tush him last."
When the good lieutenant applied himself to the door, he applied himself likewise to the bell; and the drawer immediately attending, he dispatched him for a file of musqueteers and a surgeon. These commands, together with the drawer's report of what he had himself seen, not only produced the soldiers, but presently drew up the landlord of the house, his wife, and servants, and, indeed, every one else who happened at that time to be in the inn.
To describe every particular, and to relate the whole conversation of the ensuing scene, is not within my power, unless I had forty pens, and could, at once, write with them all together, as the company now spoke. The reader must, therefore, content himself with the most remarkable incidents, and perhaps he may very well excuse the rest.
The first thing done was securing the body of Northerton, who being delivered into the custody of six men with a corporal at their head, was by them conducted from a place which he was very willing to leave, but it was unluckily to a place whither he was very unwilling to go. To say the truth, so whimsical are the desires of ambition, the very moment this youth had attained the above-mentioned honour, he would have been well contented to have retired to some corner of the world, where the fame of it should never have reached his ears.
It surprizes us, and so perhaps, it may the reader, that the lieutenant, a worthy and good man, should have applied his chief care, rather to secure the offender, than to preserve the life of the wounded person. We mention this observation, not with any view of pretending to account for so odd a behaviour, but lest some critic should hereafter plume himself on discovering it. We would have these gentlemen know we can see what is odd in characters as well as themselves, but it is our business to relate facts as they are; which, when we have done, it is the part of the learned and sagacious reader to consult that original book of nature, whence every passage in our work is transcribed, though we quote not always the particular page for its authority.
The company which now arrived were of a different disposition. They suspended their curiosity concerning the person of the ensign, till they should see him hereafter in a more engaging attitude. At present, their whole concern and attention were employed about the bloody object on the floor; which being placed upright in a chair, soon began to discover some symptoms of life and motion. These were no sooner perceived by the company (for Jones was at first generally concluded to be dead) than they all fell at once to prescribing for him (for as none of thewas present, every one there took that office upon him).
Bleeding was the unanimous voice of the whole room; but unluckily there was no operator at hand; every one then cried, "Call the barber;" but none stirred a step. Several cordials was likewise prescribed in the same ineffective manner; till the landlord ordered up a tankard of strong beer, with a toast, which he said was the best cordial in England.
The person principally assistant on this occasion, indeed the only one who did any service, or seemed likely to do any, was the landlady: she cut off some of her hair, and applied it to the wound to stop the blood; she fell to chafing the youth's temples with her hand; and having exprest great contempt for her husband's prescription of beer, she despatched one of her maids to her own closet for a bottle of brandy, of which, as soon as it was brought, she prevailed on Jones, who was just returned to his senses, to drink a very large and plentiful draught.
Soon afterwards arrived the surgeon, who having viewed the wound, having shaken his head, and blamed everything which was done, ordered his patient instantly to bed; in which place we think proper to leave him some time to his repose, and shall here, therefore, put an end to this chapter.
- Containing the great address of the landlady, the great learning of a surgeon, and the solid skill in casuistry of the worthy lieutenant.
When the wounded man was carried to his bed, and the house began again to clear up from the hurry which this accident had occasioned, the landlady thus addressed the commanding officer: "I am afraid, sir," said she, "this young man did not behave himself as well as he should do to your honours; and if he had been killed, I suppose he had but his desarts: to be sure, when gentlemen admit inferior parsons into their company, they oft to keep their distance; but, as my first husband used to say, few of 'em know how to do it. For my own part, I am sure I should not have suffered any fellows to include themselves into gentlemen's company; but I thoft he had been an officer himself, till the serjeant told me he was but a recruit."
"Landlady," answered the lieutenant, "you mistake the whole matter. The young man behaved himself extremely well, and is, I believe, a much better gentleman than the ensign who abused him. If the young fellow dies, the man who struck him will have most reason to be sorry for it: for the regiment will get rid of a very troublesome fellow, who is a scandal to the army; and if he escapes from the hands of justice, blame me, madam, that's all."
"Ay! ay! good lack-a-day!" said the landlady; "who could have thoft it? Ay, ay, ay, I am satisfied your honour will see justice done; and to be sure it oft to be to every one. Gentlemen oft not to kill poor folks without answering for it. A poor man hath a soul to be saved, as well as his betters."
"Indeed, madam," said the lieutenant, "you do the volunteer wrong: I dare swear he is more of a gentleman than the officer."
"Ay!" cries the landlady; "why, look you there, now: well, my first husband was a wise man; he used to say, you can't always know the inside by the outside. Nay, that might have been well enough too; for I never saw'd him till he was all over blood. Who would have thoft it? mayhap, some young gentleman crossed in love. Good lack-a-day, if he should die, what a concern it will be to his parents! why, sure the devil must possess the wicked wretch to do such an act. To be sure, he is a scandal to the army, as your honour says; for most of the gentlemen of the army that ever I saw, are quite different sort of people, and look as if they would scorn to spill any Christian blood as much as any men: I mean, that is, in a civil way, as my first husband used to say. To be sure, when they come into the wars, there must be bloodshed: but that they are not to be blamed for. The more of our enemies they kill there, the better: and I wish, with all my heart, they could kill every mother's son of them."
"O fie, madam!" said the lieutenant, smiling; "all is rather too bloody-minded a wish."
"Not at all, sir," answered she; "I am not at all bloody-minded, only to our enemies; and there is no harm in that. To be sure it is natural for us to wish our enemies dead, that the wars may be at an end, and our taxes be lowered; for it is a dreadful thing to pay as we do. Why now, there is above forty shillings for, and yet we have stopt up all we could; we have almost blinded the house, I am sure. Says I to the exciseman, says I, I think you oft to favour us; I am sure we are very good friends to the government: and so we are for sartain, for we pay a mint of money to 'um. And yet I often think to myself the government doth not imagine itself more obliged to us, than to those that don't pay 'um a farthing. Ay, ay, it is the way of the world."
She was proceeding in this manner when the surgeon entered the room. The lieutenant immediately asked how his patient did. But he resolved him only by saying, "Better, I believe, than he would have been by this time, if I had not been called; and even as it is, perhaps it would have been lucky if I could have been called sooner."—"I hope, sir," said the lieutenant, "the skull is not fractured."—"Hum," cries the surgeon: "fractures are not always the most dangerous symptoms. Contusions and lacerations are often attended with worse phaenomena, and with more fatal consequences, than fractures. People who know nothing of the matter conclude, if the skull is not fractured, all is well; whereas, I had rather see a man's skull broke all to pieces, than some contusions I have met with."—"I hope," says the lieutenant, "there are no such symptoms here."—"Symptoms," answered the surgeon, "are not always regular nor constant. I have known very unfavourable symptoms in the morning change to favourable ones at noon, and return to unfavourable again at night. Of wounds, indeed, it is rightly and truly said, * I was once, I remember, called to a patient who had received a violent contusion in his tibia, by which the exterior cutis was lacerated, so that there was a profuse ; and the interior membranes were so divellicated, that the or bone very plainly appeared through the of the or wound. Some febrile symptoms intervening at the same time (for the pulse was exuberant and indicated much phlebotomy), I apprehended an immediate . To prevent which, I presently made a large in the vein of the left arm, whence I drew twenty ounces of blood; which I expected to have found extremely sizy and glutinous, or indeed coagulated, as it is in pleuretic complaints; but, to my surprize, it appeared rosy and florid, and its consistency differed little from the blood of those in perfect health. I then applied a fomentation to the part, which highly answered the intention; and after three or four times dressing, the wound began to discharge a thick pus or matter, by which means the cohesion—But perhaps I do not make myself perfectly well understood?"—"No, really," answered the lieutenant, "I cannot say I understand a syllable."—"Well, sir," said the surgeon, "then I shall not tire your patience; in short, within six weeks my patient was able to walk upon his legs as perfectly as he could have done before he received the contusion."—"I wish, sir," said the lieutenant, "you would be so kind only to inform me, whether the wound this young gentleman hath had the misfortune to receive, is likely to prove mortal."—"Sir," answered the surgeon, "to say whether a wound will prove mortal or not at first dressing, would be very weak and foolish presumption: we are all mortal, and symptoms often occur in a cure which the greatest of our profession could never foresee."—"But do you think him in danger?" says the other.—"In danger! ay, surely," cries the doctor: "who is there among us, who, in the most perfect health, can be said not to be in danger? Can a man, therefore, with so bad a wound as this be said to be out of danger? All I can say at present is, that it is well I was called as I was, and perhaps it would have been better if I had been called sooner. I will see him again early in the morning; and in the meantime let him be kept extremely quiet, and drink liberally of water-gruel."—"Won't you allow him sack-whey?" said the landlady.—"Ay, ay, sack-whey," cries the doctor, "if you will, provided it be very small."—"And a little chicken broth too?" added she.—"Yes, yes, chicken broth," said the doctor, "is very good."—"Mayn't I make him some jellies too?" said the landlady.—"Ay, ay," answered the doctor, "jellies are very good for wounds, for they promote cohesion." And indeed it was lucky she had not named soup or high sauces, for the doctor would have complied, rather than have lost the custom of the house..
The doctor was no sooner gone, than the landlady began to trumpet forth his fame to the lieutenant, who had not, from their short acquaintance, conceived quite so favourable an opinion of his physical abilities as the good woman, and all the neighbourhood, entertained (and perhaps very rightly); for though I am afraid the doctor was a little of a coxcomb, he might be nevertheless very much of a surgeon.
The lieutenant having collected from the learned discourse of the surgeon that Mr Jones was in great danger, gave orders for keeping Mr Northerton under a very strict guard, designing in the morning to attend him to a justice of peace, and to commit the conducting the troops to Gloucester to the French lieutenant, who, though he could neither read, write, nor speak any language, was, however, a good officer.
In the evening, our commander sent a message to Mr Jones, that if a visit would not be troublesome, he would wait on him. This civility was very kindly and thankfully received by Jones, and the lieutenant accordingly went up to his room, where he found the wounded man much better than he expected; nay, Jones assured his friend, that if he had not received express orders to the contrary from the surgeon, he should have got up long ago; for he appeared to himself to be as well as ever, and felt no other inconvenience from his wound but an extreme soreness on that side of his head.
"I should be very glad," quoth the lieutenant, "if you was as well as you fancy yourself, for then you could be able to do yourself justice immediately; for when a matter can't be made up, as in case of a blow, the sooner youthe better; but I am afraid you think yourself better than you are, and he would have too much advantage over you."
"I'll try, however," answered Jones, "if you please, and will be so kind to lend me a sword, for I have none here of my own."
"My sword is heartily at your service, my dear boy," cries the lieutenant, kissing him; "you are a brave lad, and I love your spirit; but I fear your strength; for such a blow, and so much loss of blood, must have very much weakened you; and though you feel no want of strength in your bed, yet you most probably would after a thrust or two. I can't consent to your taking him out tonight; but I hope you will be able to come up with us before we get many days' march advance; and I give you my honour you shall have satisfaction, or the man who hath injured you shan't stay in our regiment."
"I wish," said Jones, "it was possible to decide this matter to-night: now you have mentioned it to me, I shall not be able to rest."
"Oh, never think of it," returned the other: "a few days will make no difference. The wounds of honour are not like those in your body: they suffer nothing by the delay of cure. It will be altogether as well for you to receive satisfaction a week hence as now."
"But suppose," says Jones, "I should grow worse, and die of the consequences of my present wound?"
"Then your honour," answered the lieutenant, "will require no reparation at all. I myself will do justice to your character, and testify to the world your intention to have acted properly, if you had recovered."
"Still," replied Jones, "I am concerned at the delay. I am almost afraid to mention it to you who are a soldier; but though I have been a very wild young fellow, still in my most serious moments, and at the bottom, I am really a Christian."
"So am I too, I assure you," said the officer; "and so zealous a one, that I was pleased with you at dinner for taking up the cause of your religion; and I am a little offended with you now, young gentleman, that you should express a fear of declaring your faith before any one."
"But how terrible must it be," cries Jones, "to any one who is really a Christian, to cherish malice in his breast, in opposition to the command of Him who hath expressly forbid it? How can I bear to do this on a sick-bed? Or how shall I make up my account, with such an article as this in my bosom against me?"
"Why, I believe there is such a command," cries the lieutenant; "but a man of honour can't keep it. And you must be a man of honour, if you will be in the army. I remember I once put the case to our chaplain over a bowl of punch, and he confessed there was much difficulty in it; but he said, he hoped there might be a latitude granted to soldiers in this one instance; and to be sure it is our duty to hope so; for who would bear to live without his honour? No, no, my dear boy, be a good Christian as long as you live; but be a man of honour too, and never put up an affront; not all the books, nor all the parsons in the world, shall ever persuade me to that. I love my religion very well, but I love my honour more. There must be some mistake in the wording the text, or in the translation, or in the understanding it, or somewhere or other. But however that be, a man must run the risque, for he must preserve his honour. So compose yourself to-night, and I promise you you shall have an opportunity of doing yourself justice." Here he gave Jones a hearty buss, shook him by the hand, and took his leave.
But though the lieutenant's reasoning was very satisfactory to himself, it was not entirely so to his friend. Jones therefore, having revolved this matter much in his thoughts, at last came to a resolution, which the reader will find in the next chapter.
- A most dreadful chapter indeed; and which few readers ought to venture upon in an evening, especially when alone.
Jones swallowed a large mess of chicken, or rather cock, broth, with a very good appetite, as indeed he would have done the cock it was made of, with a pound of bacon into the bargain; and now, finding in himself no deficiency of either health or spirit, he resolved to get up and seek his enemy.
But first he sent for the serjeant, who was his first acquaintance among these military gentlemen. Unluckily that worthy officer having, in a literal sense, taken his fill of liquor, had been some time retired to his bolster, where he was snoring so loud that it was not easy to convey a noise in at his ears capable of drowning that which issued from his nostrils.
However, as Jones persisted in his desire of seeing him, a vociferous drawer at length found means to disturb his slumbers, and to acquaint him with the message. Of which the serjeant was no sooner made sensible, than he arose from his bed, and having his clothes already on, immediately attended. Jones did not think fit to acquaint the serjeant with his design; though he might have done it with great safety, for the halberdier was himself a man of honour, and had killed his man. He would therefore have faithfully kept this secret, or indeed any other which no reward was published for discovering. But as Jones knew not those virtues in so short an acquaintance, his caution was perhaps prudent and commendable enough.
He began therefore by acquainting the serjeant, that as he was now entered into the army, he was ashamed of being without what was perhaps the most necessary implement of a soldier; namely, a sword; adding, that he should be infinitely obliged to him, if he could procure one. "For which," says he, "I will give you any reasonable price; nor do I insist upon its being silver-hilted; only a good blade, and such as may become a soldier's thigh."
The serjeant, who well knew what had happened, and had heard that Jones was in a very dangerous condition, immediately concluded, from such a message, at such a time of night, and from a man in such a situation, that he was light-headed. Now as he had his wit (to use that word in its common signification) always ready, he bethought himself of making his advantage of this humour in the sick man. "Sir," says he, "I believe I can fit you. I have a most excellent piece of stuff by me. It is not indeed silver-hilted, which, as you say, doth not become a soldier; but the handle is decent enough, and the blade one of the best in Europe. It is a blade that—a blade that—in short, I will fetch it you this instant, and you shall see it and handle it. I am glad to see your honour so well with all my heart."
Being instantly returned with the sword, he delivered it to Jones, who took it and drew it; and then told the serjeant it would do very well, and bid him name his price.
The serjeant now began to harangue in praise of his goods. He said (nay he swore very heartily), "that the blade was taken from a French officer, of very high rank, at the battle of Dettingen. I took it myself," says he, "from his side, after I had knocked him o' the head. The hilt was a golden one. That I sold to one of our fine gentlemen; for there are some of them, an't please your honour, who value the hilt of a sword more than the blade."
Here the other stopped him, and begged him to name a price. The serjeant, who thought Jones absolutely out of his senses, and very near his end, was afraid lest he should injure his family by asking too little. However, after a moment's hesitation, he contented himself with naming twenty guineas, and swore he would not sell it for less to his own brother.
"Twenty guineas!" says Jones, in the utmost surprize: "sure you think I am mad, or that I never saw a sword in my life. Twenty guineas, indeed! I did not imagine you would endeavour to impose upon me. Here, take the sword—No, now I think on't, I will keep it myself, and show it your officer in the morning, acquainting him, at the same time, what a price you asked me for it."
The serjeant, as we have said, had always his wit () about him, and now plainly saw that Jones was not in the condition he had apprehended him to be; he now, therefore, counterfeited as great surprize as the other had shown, and said, "I am certain, sir, I have not asked you so much out of the way. Besides, you are to consider, it is the only sword I have, and I must run the risque of my officer's displeasure, by going without one myself. And truly, putting all this together, I don't think twenty shillings was so much out of the way."
"Twenty shillings!" cries Jones; "why, you just now asked me twenty guineas."—"How!" cries the serjeant, "sure your honour must have mistaken me: or else I mistook myself—and indeed I am but half awake. Twenty guineas, indeed! no wonder your honour flew into such a passion. I say twenty guineas too. No, no, I mean twenty shillings, I assure you. And when your honour comes to consider everything, I hope you will not think that so extravagant a price. It is indeed true, you may buy a weapon which looks as well for less money. But——"
Here Jones interrupted him, saying, "I will be so far from making any words with you, that I will give you a shilling more than your demand." He then gave him a guinea, bid him return to his bed, and wished him a good march; adding, he hoped to overtake them before the division reached Worcester.
The serjeant very civilly took his leave, fully satisfied with his merchandize, and not a little pleased with his dexterous recovery from that false step into which his opinion of the sick man's light-headedness had betrayed him.
As soon as the serjeant was departed, Jones rose from his bed, and dressed himself entirely, putting on even his coat, which, as its colour was white, showed very visibly the streams of blood which had flowed down it; and now, having grasped his new-purchased sword in his hand, he was going to issue forth, when the thought of what he was about to undertake laid suddenly hold of him, and he began to reflect that in a few minutes he might possibly deprive a human being of life, or might lose his own. "Very well," said he, "and in what cause do I venture my life? Why, in that of my honour. And who is this human being? A rascal who hath injured and insulted me without provocation. But is not revenge forbidden by Heaven? Yes, but it is enjoined by the world. Well, but shall I obey the world in opposition to the express commands of Heaven? Shall I incur the Divine displeasure rather than be called—ha—coward—scoundrel?—I'll think no more; I am resolved, and must fight him."
The clock had now struck twelve, and every one in the house were in their beds, except the centinel who stood to guard Northerton, when Jones softly opening his door, issued forth in pursuit of his enemy, of whose place of confinement he had received a perfect description from the drawer. It is not easy to conceive a much more tremendous figure than he now exhibited. He had on, as we have said, a light-coloured coat, covered with streams of blood. His face, which missed that very blood, as well as twenty ounces more drawn from him by the surgeon, was pallid. Round his head was a quantity of bandage, not unlike a turban. In the right hand he carried a sword, and in the left a candle. So that the bloody Banquo was not worthy to be compared to him. In fact, I believe a more dreadful apparition was never raised in a church-yard, nor in the imagination of any good people met in a winter evening over a Christmas fire in Somersetshire.
When the centinel first saw our heroe approach, his hair began gently to lift up his grenadier cap; and in the same instant his knees fell to blows with each other. Presently his whole body was seized with worse than an ague fit. He then fired his piece, and fell flat on his face.
Whether fear or courage was the occasion of his firing, or whether he took aim at the object of his terror, I cannot say. If he did, however, he had the good fortune to miss his man.
Jones seeing the fellow fall, guessed the cause of his fright, at which he could not forbear smiling, not in the least reflecting on the danger from which he had just escaped. He then passed by the fellow, who still continued in the posture in which he fell, and entered the room where Northerton, as he had heard, was confined. Here, in a solitary situation, he found—an empty quart pot standing on the table, on which some beer being spilt, it looked as if the room had lately been inhabited; but at present it was entirely vacant.
Jones then apprehended it might lead to some other apartment; but upon searching all round it, he could perceive no other door than that at which he entered, and where the centinel had been posted. He then proceeded to call Northerton several times by his name; but no one answered; nor did this serve to any other purpose than to confirm the centinel in his terrors, who was now convinced that the volunteer was dead of his wounds, and that his ghost was come in search of the murderer: he now lay in all the agonies of horror; and I wish, with all my heart, some of those actors who are hereafter to represent a man frighted out of his wits had seen him, that they might be taught to copy nature, instead of performing several antic tricks and gestures, for the entertainment and applause of the galleries.
Perceiving the bird was flown, at least despairing to find him, and rightly apprehending that the report of the firelock would alarm the whole house, our heroe now blew out his candle, and gently stole back again to his chamber, and to his bed; whither he would not have been able to have gotten undiscovered, had any other person been on the same staircase, save only one gentleman who was confined to his bed by the gout; for before he could reach the door to his chamber, the hall where the centinel had been posted was half full of people, some in their shirts, and others not half drest, all very earnestly enquiring of each other what was the matter.
The soldier was now found lying in the same place and posture in which we just now left him. Several immediately applied themselves to raise him, and some concluded him dead; but they presently saw their mistake, for he not only struggled with those who laid their hands on him, but fell a roaring like a bull. In reality, he imagined so many spirits or devils were handling him; for his imagination being possessed with the horror of an apparition, converted every object he saw or felt into nothing but ghosts and spectres.
At length he was overpowered by numbers, and got upon his legs; when candles being brought, and seeing two or three of his comrades present, he came a little to himself; but when they asked him what was the matter? he answered, "I am a dead man, that's all, I am a dead man, I can't recover it, I have seen him." "What hast thou seen, Jack?" says one of the soldiers. "Why, I have seen the young volunteer that was killed yesterday." He then imprecated the most heavy curses on himself, if he had not seen the volunteer, all over blood, vomiting fire out of his mouth and nostrils, pass by him into the chamber where Ensign Northerton was, and then seizing the ensign by the throat, fly away with him in a clap of thunder.
This relation met with a gracious reception from the audience. All the women present believed it firmly, and prayed Heaven to defend them from murder. Amongst the men too, many had faith in the story; but others turned it into derision and ridicule; and a serjeant who was present answered very coolly, "Young man, you will hear more of this, for going to sleep and dreaming on your post."
The soldier replied, "You may punish me if you please; but I was as broad awake as I am now; and the devil carry me away, as he hath the ensign, if I did not see the dead man, as I tell you, with eyes as big and as fiery as two large flambeaux."
The commander of the forces, and the commander of the house, were now both arrived; for the former being awake at the time, and hearing the centinel fire his piece, thought it his duty to rise immediately, though he had no great apprehensions of any mischief; whereas the apprehensions of the latter were much greater, lest her spoons and tankards should be upon the march, without having received any such orders from her.
Our poor centinel, to whom the sight of this officer was not much more welcome than the apparition, as he thought it, which he had seen before, again related the dreadful story, and with many additions of blood and fire; but he had the misfortune to gain no credit with either of the last-mentioned persons: for the officer, though a very religious man, was free from all terrors of this kind; besides, having so lately left Jones in the condition we have seen, he had no suspicion of his being dead. As for the landlady, though not over religious, she had no kind of aversion to the doctrine of spirits; but there was a circumstance in the tale which she well knew to be false, as we shall inform the reader presently.
But whether Northerton was carried away in thunder or fire, or in whatever other manner he was gone, it was now certain that his body was no longer in custody. Upon this occasion the lieutenant formed a conclusion not very different from what the serjeant is just mentioned to have made before, and immediately ordered the centinel to be taken prisoner. So that, by a strange reverse of fortune (though not very uncommon in a military life), the guard became the guarded.
- The conclusion of the foregoing adventure.
Besides the suspicion of sleep, the lieutenant harboured another and worse doubt against the poor centinel, and this was, that of treachery; for as he believed not one syllable of the apparition, so he imagined the whole to be an invention formed only to impose upon him, and that the fellow had in reality been bribed by Northerton to let him escape. And this he imagined the rather, as the fright appeared to him the more unnatural in one who had the character of as brave and bold a man as any in the regiment, having been in several actions, having received several wounds, and, in a word, having behaved himself always like a good and valiant soldier.
That the reader, therefore, may not conceive the least ill opinion of such a person, we shall not delay a moment in rescuing his character from the imputation of this guilt.
Mr Northerton then, as we have before observed, was fully satisfied with the glory which he had obtained from this action. He had perhaps seen, or heard, or guessed, that envy is apt to attend fame. Not that I would here insinuate that he was heathenishly inclined to believe in or to worship the goddess Nemesis; for, in fact, I am convinced he never heard of her name. He was, besides, of an active disposition, and had a great antipathy to those close quarters in the castle of Gloucester, for which a justice of peace might possibly give him a billet. Nor was he moreover free from some uneasy meditations on a certain wooden edifice, which I forbear to name, in conformity to the opinion of mankind, who, I think, rather ought to honour than to be ashamed of this building, as it is, or at least might be made, of more benefit to society than almost any other public erection. In a word, to hint at no more reasons for his conduct, Mr Northerton was desirous of departing that evening, and nothing remained for him but to contrive the quomodo, which appeared to be a matter of some difficulty.
Now this young gentleman, though somewhat crooked in his morals, was perfectly straight in his person, which was extremely strong and well made. His face too was accounted handsome by the generality of women, for it was broad and ruddy, with tolerably good teeth. Such charms did not fail making an impression on my landlady, who had no little relish for this kind of beauty. She had, indeed, a real compassion for the young man; and hearing from the surgeon that affairs were like to go ill with the volunteer, she suspected they might hereafter wear no benign aspect with the ensign. Having obtained, therefore, leave to make him a visit, and finding him in a very melancholy mood, which she considerably heightened by telling him there were scarce any hopes of the volunteer's life, she proceeded to throw forth some hints, which the other readily and eagerly taking up, they soon came to a right understanding; and it was at length agreed that the ensign should, at a certain signal, ascend the chimney, which communicating very soon with that of the kitchen, he might there again let himself down; for which she would give him an opportunity by keeping the coast clear.
But lest our readers, of a different complexion, should take this occasion of too hastily condemning all compassion as a folly, and pernicious to society, we think proper to mention another particular which might possibly have some little share in this action. The ensign happened to be at this time possessed of the sum of fifty pounds, which did indeed belong to the whole company; for the captain having quarrelled with his lieutenant, had entrusted the payment of his company to the ensign. This money, however, he thought proper to deposit in my landlady's hand, possibly by way of bail or security that he would hereafter appear and answer to the charge against him; but whatever were the conditions, certain it is, that she had the money and the ensign his liberty.
The reader may perhaps expect, from the compassionate temper of this good woman, that when she saw the poor centinel taken prisoner for a fact of which she knew him innocent, she should immediately have interposed in his behalf; but whether it was that she had already exhausted all her compassion in the above-mentioned instance, or that the features of this fellow, though not very different from those of the ensign, could not raise it, I will not determine; but, far from being an advocate for the present prisoner, she urged his guilt to his officer, declaring, with uplifted eyes and hands, that she would not have had any concern in the escape of a murderer for all the world.
Everything was now once more quiet, and most of the company returned again to their beds; but the landlady, either from the natural activity of her disposition, or from her fear for her plate, having no propensity to sleep, prevailed with the officers, as they were to march within little more than an hour, to spend that time with her over a bowl of punch.
Jones had lain awake all this while, and had heard great part of the hurry and bustle that had passed, of which he had now some curiosity to know the particulars. He therefore applied to his bell, which he rung at least twenty times without any effect: for my landlady was in such high mirth with her company, that no clapper could be heard there but her own; and the drawer and chambermaid, who were sitting together in the kitchen (for neither durst he sit up nor she lie in bed alone), the more they heard the bell ring the more they were frightened, and as it were nailed down in their places.
At last, at a lucky interval of chat, the sound reached the ears of our good landlady, who presently sent forth her summons, which both her servants instantly obeyed. "Joe," says the mistress, "don't you hear the gentleman's bell ring? Why don't you go up?"—"It is not my business," answered the drawer, "to wait upon the chambers—it is Betty Chambermaid's."—"If you come to that," answered the maid, "it is not my business to wait upon gentlemen. I have done it indeed sometimes; but the devil fetch me if ever I do again, since you make your preambles about it." The bell still ringing violently, their mistress fell into a passion, and swore, if the drawer did not go up immediately, she would turn him away that very morning. "If you do, madam," says he, "I can't help it. I won't do another servant's business." She then applied herself to the maid, and endeavoured to prevail by gentle means; but all in vain: Betty was as inflexible as Joe. Both insisted it was not their business, and they would not do it.
The lieutenant then fell a laughing, and said, "Come, I will put an end to this contention;" and then turning to the servants, commended them for their resolution in not giving up the point; but added, he was sure, if one would consent to go the other would. To which proposal they both agreed in an instant, and accordingly went up very lovingly and close together. When they were gone, the lieutenant appeased the wrath of the landlady, by satisfying her why they were both so unwilling to go alone.
They returned soon after, and acquainted their mistress, that the sick gentleman was so far from being dead, that he spoke as heartily as if he was well; and that he gave his service to the captain, and should be very glad of the favour of seeing him before he marched.
The good lieutenant immediately complied with his desires, and sitting down by his bed-side, acquainted him with the scene which had happened below, concluding with his intentions to make an example of the centinel.
Upon this Jones related to him the whole truth, and earnestly begged him not to punish the poor soldier, "who, I am confident," says he, "is as innocent of the ensign's escape, as he is of forging any lie, or of endeavouring to impose on you."
The lieutenant hesitated a few moments, and then answered: "Why, as you have cleared the fellow of one part of the charge, so it will be impossible to prove the other, because he was not the only centinel. But I have a good mind to punish the rascal for being a coward. Yet who knows what effect the terror of such an apprehension may have? and, to say the truth, he hath always behaved well against an enemy. Come, it is a good thing to see any sign of religion in these fellows; so I promise you he shall be set at liberty when we march. But hark, the. My dear boy, give me another buss. Don't discompose nor hurry yourself; but remember the Christian doctrine of patience, and I warrant you will soon be able to do yourself justice, and to take an honourable revenge on the fellow who hath injured you." The lieutenant then departed, and Jones endeavoured to compose himself to rest.
- The Deity.