Henry Fielding. (17071754). The History of Tom Jones.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction. 1917.
Book V. Containing a Portion of Time Somewhat Longer Than Half a Year
IV. A Little Chapter, in Which Is Contained a Little Incident
AMONG other visitants, who paid their compliments to the young gentleman in his confinement, Mrs. Honour was one. The reader, perhaps, when he reflects on some expressions which have formerly dropt from her, may conceive that she herself had a very particular affection for Mr. Jones; but, in reality, it was no such thing. Tom was a handsome young fellow; and for that species of men Mrs. Honour had some regard; but this was perfectly indiscriminate; for having been crossed in the love which she bore a certain noblemans footman, who had basely deserted her after a promise of marriage, she had so securely kept together the broken remains of her heart, that no man had ever since been able to possess himself of any single fragment. She viewed all handsome men with that equal regard and benevolence which a sober and virtuous mind bears to all the good. She might indeed be called a lover of men, as Socrates was a lover of mankind, preferring one to another for corporeal, as he for mental qualifications; but never carrying this preference so far as to cause any perturbation in the philosophical serenity of her temper.
The day after Mr. Jones had that conflict with himself which we have seen in the preceding chapter, Mrs. Honour came into his room, and finding him alone, began in the following manner:La, sir, where do you think I have been? I warrants you, you would not guess in fifty years; but if you did guess, to be sure I must not tell you neither.Nay, if it be something which you must not tell me, said Jones, I shall have the curiosity to enquire, and I know you will not be so barbarous to refuse me.I dont know, cries she, why I should refuse you neither, for that matter; for to be sure you wont mention it any more. And for that matter, if you knew where I have been, unless you knew what I have been about, it would not signify much. Nay, I dont see why it should be kept a secret for my part; for to be sure she is the best lady in the world. Upon this, Jones began to beg earnestly to be let into this secret, and faithfully promised not to divulge it. She then proceeded thus:Why, you must know, sir, my young lady sent me to enquire after Molly Seagrim, and to see whether the wench wanted anything; to be sure, I did not care to go, methinks; but servants must do what they are ordered.How could you undervalue yourself so, Mr. Jones?So my lady bid me go and carry her some linen, and other things. She is too good. If such forward sluts were sent to Bridewell, it would be better for them. I told my lady, says I, madam, your laship is encouraging idleness.And was my Sophia so good? says Jones. My Sophia! I assure you, marry come up, answered Honour. And yet if you knew allindeed, if I was as Mr. Jones, I should look a little higher than such trumpery as Molly Seagrim. What do you mean by these words, replied Jones, if I knew all? I mean what I mean, says Honour. Dont you remember putting your hands in my ladys muff once? I vow I could almost find in my heart to tell, if I was certain my lady would never come to the hearing ont. Jones then made several solemn protestations. And Honour proceededThen to be sure, my lady gave me that muff; and afterwards, upon hearing what you had doneThen you told her what I had done? interrupted Jones. If I did, sir, answered she, you need not be angry with me. Manys the man would have given his head to have had my lady told, if they had known,for, to be sure, the biggest lord in the land might be proudbut, I protest, I have a great mind not to tell you. Jones fell to entreaties, and soon prevailed on her to go on thus. You must know then, sir, that my lady had given this muff to me; but about a day or two after I had told her the story, she quarrels with her new muff, and to be sure it is the prettiest that ever was seen. Honour, says she, this is an odious muff; it is too big for me, I cant wear it: till I can get another, you must let me have my old one again, and you may have this in the room ontfor shes a good lady, and scorns to give a thing and take a thing, I promise you that. So to be sure I fetched it her back again, and, I believe, she hath worn it upon her arm almost ever since, and I warrants hath given it many a kiss when nobody hath seen her.
Here the conversation was interrupted by Mr. Western himself, who came to summon Jones to the harpsichord; whither the poor young fellow went all pale and trembling. This Western observed, but, on seeing Mrs. Honour, imputed it to a wrong cause; and having given Jones a hearty curse between jest and earnest, he bid him beat abroad, and not poach up the game in his warren.
Sophia looked this evening with more than usual beauty, and we may believe it was no small addition to her charms, in the eye of Mr. Jones, that she now happened to have on her right arm this very muff.
She was playing one of her fathers favourite tunes, and he was leaning on her chair, when the muff fell over her fingers, and put her out. This so disconcerted the squire, that he snatched the muff from her, and with a hearty curse threw it into the fire. Sophia instantly started up, and with the utmost eagerness recovered it from the flames.
Though this incident will probably appear of little consequence to many of our readers; yet, trifling as it was, it had so violent an effect on poor Jones, that we thought it our duty to relate it. In reality, there are many little circumstances too often omitted by injudicious historians, from which events of the utmost importance arise. The world may indeed be considered as a vast machine, in which the great wheels are originally set in motion by those which are very minute, and almost imperceptible to any but the strongest eyes.
Thus, not all the charms of the incomparable Sophia; not all the dazzling brightness, and languishing softness of her eyes; the harmony of her voice, and of her person; not all her wit, good-humour, greatness of mind, or sweetness of disposition, had been able so absolutely to conquer and enslave the heart of poor Jones, as this little incident of the muff. Thus the poet sweetly sings of Troy
The citadel of Jones was now taken by surprise. All those considerations of honour and prudence which our heroe had lately with so much military wisdom placed as guards over the avenues of his heart, ran away from their posts, and the god of love marched in, in triumph.