Henry Fielding. (17071754). The History of Tom Jones.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction. 1917.
Book VI. Containing about Three Weeks
VI. Containing a Dialogue between Sophia and Mrs. Honour, Which May a Little Relieve Those Tender Affections Which the Foregoing Scene May Have Raised in the Mind of a Good-Natured Reader
MRS. WESTERN having obtained that promise from her niece which we have seen in the last chapter, withdrew; and presently after arrived Mrs. Honour. She was at work in a neighbouring apartment, and had been summoned to the keyhole by some vociferation in the preceding dialogue, where she had continued during the remaining part of it. At her entry into the room, she found Sophia standing motionless, with the tears trickling from her eyes. Upon which she immediately ordered a proper quantity of tears into her own eyes, and then began, O Gemini, my dear lady, what is the matter?Nothing, cries Sophia. Nothing! O dear madam! answers Honour, you must not tell me that, when your ladyship is in this taking, and when there hath been such a preamble between your ladyship and Madam Western.Dont teaze me, cries Sophia; I tell you nothing is the matter. Good heavens! why was I born?Nay, madam, says Mrs. Honour, you shall never persuade me that your laship can lament yourself so for nothing. To be sure I am but a servant; but to be sure I have been always faithful to your laship, and to be sure I would serve your laship with my life.My dear Honour, says Sophia, t is not in thy power to be of any service to me. I am irretrievably undone.Heaven forbid! answered the waiting-woman; but if I cant be of any service to you, pray tell me, madamit will be some comfort to me to knowpray, dear maam, tell me whats the matter.My father, cries Sophia, is going to marry me to a man I both despise and hate.O dear, maam, answered the other, who is this wicked man? for to be sure he is very bad, or your laship would not despise him.His name is poison to my tongue, replied Sophia: thou wilt know it too soon. Indeed, to confess the truth, she knew it already, and therefore was not very inquisitive as to that point. She then proceeded thus: I dont pretend to give your laship advice, whereof your laship knows much better than I can pretend to, being but a servant; but, i-fackins! no father in England should marry me against my consent. And, to be sure, the squire is so good, that if he did but know your laship despises and hates the young man, to be sure he would not desire you to marry him. And if your laship would but give me leave to tell my master so. To be sure, it would be more properer to come from your own mouth; but as your laship doth not care to foul your tongue with his nasty nameYou are mistaken, Honour, says Sophia; my father was determined before he ever thought fit to mention it to me.More shame for him, cries Honour: you are to go to bed to him, and not master: and thof a man may be a very proper man, yet every woman maynt think him handsome alike. I am sure my master would never act in this manner of his own head. I wish some people would trouble themselves only with what belongs to them; they would not, I believe, like to be served so, if it was their own case; for though I am a maid, I can easily believe as how all men are not equally agreeable. And what signifies your laship having so great a fortune, if you cant please yourself with the man you think most handsomest? Well, I say nothing; but to be sure it is a pity some folks have not been better born; nay, as for that matter, I should not mind it myself; but then there is not so much money; and what of that? your laship hath money enough for both; and where can your laship bestow your fortune better? for to be sure every one must allow that he is the most handsomest, charmingest, finest, tallest, properest man in the world.What do you mean by running on in this manner to me? cries Sophia, with a very grave countenance. Have I ever given any encouragement for these liberties?Nay, maam, I ask pardon; I meant to harm, answered she; but to be sure the poor gentleman hath run in my head ever since I saw him this morning. To be sure, if your laship had but seen him just now, you must have pitied him. Poor gentleman! I wishes some misfortunes hath not happened to him; for he hath been walking about with his arms across, and looking so melancholy, all this morning: I vow and protest it made me almost cry to see him.To see whom? says Sophia. Poor Mr. Jones, answered Honour. See him! why, where did you see him? cries Sophia. By the canal, maam, says Honour. There he hath been walking all this morning, and at last there he laid himself down: I believe he lies there still. To be sure, if it had not been for my modesty, being a maid, as I am, I should have gone and spoke to him. Do, maam, let me go and see, only for a fancy, whether he is there still.Pugh! says Sophia. There! no, no; what should he do there? He is gone before this time, to be sure. Besides, whywhatwhy should you go to see? besides, I want you for something else. Go, fetch me my hat and gloves. I shall walk with my aunt in the grove before dinner. Honour did immediately as she was bid, and Sophia put her hat on; when, looking in the glass, she fancied the ribbon with which her hat was tied did not become her, and so sent her maid back again for a ribbon of a different colour; and then giving Mrs. Honour repeated charges not to leave her work on any account, as she said it was in violent haste, and must be finished that very day, she muttered something more about going to the grove, and then sallied out the contrary way, and walked, as fast as her tender trembling limbs could carry her, directly towards the canal.
Jones had been there as Mrs. Honour had told her; he had indeed spent two hours there that morning in melancholy contemplation on his Sophia, and had gone out from the garden at one door the moment she entered it at another. So that those unlucky minutes which had been spent in changing the ribbons, had prevented the lovers from meeting at this time;a most unfortunate accident, from which my fair readers will not fail to draw a very wholesome lesson. And here I strictly forbid all male critics to intermeddle with a circumstance which I have recounted only for the sake of the ladies, and upon which they only are at liberty to comment.