Henry Fielding. (17071754). The History of Tom Jones.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction. 1917.
Book VIII. Containing about Two Days
II. In Which the Landlady Pays a Visit to Mr. Jones
WHEN Jones had taken leave of his friend the lieutenant, he endeavoured to close his eyes, but all in vain; his spirits were too lively and wakeful to be lulled to sleep. So having amused, or rather tormented, himself with the thoughts of his Sophia till it was open daylight, he called for some tea; upon which occasion my landlady herself vouchsafed to pay him a visit.
This was indeed the first time she had seen him, or at least had taken any notice of him; but as the lieutenant had assured her that he was certainly some young gentleman of fashion, she now determined to show him all the respect in her power; for, to speak truly, this was one of those houses where gentlemen, to use the language of advertisements, meet with civil treatment for their money.
She had no sooner begun to make his tea, than she likewise began to discourse:La! sir, said she, I think it is great pity that such a pretty young gentleman should undervalue himself so, as to go about with these soldier fellows. They call themselves gentlemen, I warrant you; but, as my first husband used to say, they should remember it is we that pay them. And to be sure it is very hard upon us to be obliged to pay them, and to keep um too, as we publicans are. I had twenty of um last night, besides officers: nay, for matter o that, I had rather have the soldiers than officers: for nothing is ever good enough for those sparks; and I am sure, if you was to see the bills; la! sir, it is nothing. I have had less trouble, I warrant you, with a good squires family, where we take forty or fifty shillings of a night, besides horses. And yet I warrants me, there is narrow a one of those officer fellows but looks upon himself to be as good as arrow a squire of £500 a year. To be sure it doth me good to hear their men run about after um, crying your honour, and your honour. Marry come up with such honour, and an ordinary at a shilling a head. Then theres such swearing among um, to be sure it frightens me out o my wits; I thinks nothing can ever prosper with such wicked people. And here one of um has used you in so barbarous a manner. I thought indeed how well the rest would secure him; they all hang together; for if you had been in danger of death, which I am glad to see you are not, it would have been all as one to such wicked people. They would have let the murderer go. Laud have mercy upon um; I would not have such a sin to answer for, for the whole world. But though you are likely, with the blessing, to recover, there is laa for him yet; and if you will employ lawyer Small, I darest be sworn hell make the fellow fly the country for him: though perhaps hell have fled the country before; for it is here to-day and gone to-morrow with such chaps. I hope, however, you will learn more wit for the future, and return back to your friends; I warrant they are all miserable for your loss; and if they was but to know what had happenedLa, my seeming! I would not for the world they should. Come, come, we know very well what all the matter is; but if one wont, another will; so pretty a gentleman need never want a lady. I am sure, if I was you, I would see the finest she that ever wore a head hanged, before I would go for a soldier for her.Nay, dont blush so (for indeed he did to a violent degree). Why, you thought, sir, I knew nothing of the matter, I warrant you, about Madam Sophia.How, says Jones, starting up, do you know my Sophia?Do I? ay marry, cries the landlady; manys the time hath she lain in this house.With her aunt, I suppose, says Jones. Why, there it is now, cries the landlady. Ay, ay, ay, I know the old lady very well. And a sweet young creature is Madam Sophia, thats the truth on t.A sweet creature, cries Jones; O heavens!
And could I ever have imagined that you had known my Sophia!I wish, says the landlady, you knew half so much of her. What would you have given to have sat by her bed-side? What a delicious neck she hath! Her lovely limbs have stretched themselves in that very bed you now lie in.Here! cries Jones: hath Sophia ever laid here?Ay, ay, here; there, in that very bed, says the landlady; where I wish you had her this moment; and she may wish so too for anything I know to the contrary, for she hath mentioned your name to me.Ha! cries he; did she ever mention her poor Jones? You flatter me now; I can never believe so much.Why, then, answered she, as I hope to be saved, and may the devil fetch me if I speak a syllable more than the truth, I have heard her mention Mr. Jones; but in a civil and modest way, I confess; yet I could perceive she thought a great deal more than she said.O my dear woman! cries Jones, her thoughts of me I shall never be worthy of. Oh, she is all gentleness, kindness, goodness! Why was such a rascal as I born, ever to give her soft bosom a moments uneasiness? Why am I cursed? I, who would undergo all the plagues and miseries which any dæmon ever invented for mankind, to procure her any good; nay, torture itself could not be misery to me, did I but know that she was happy.Why, look you there now, says the landlady; I told her you was a constant lovier.But pray, madam, tell me when or where you knew anything of me; for I never was here before, nor do I remember ever to have seen you.Nor is it possible you should, answered she; for you was a little thing when I had you in my lap at the squires.How, the squires? says Jones: what, do you know that great and good Mr. Allworthy, then?Yes, marry, do I, says she: who in the country doth not?The fame of his goodness indeed, answered Jones, must have extended farther than this; but heaven only can know himcan know that benevolence which it copied from itself, and sent upon earth as its own pattern. Mankind are as ignorant of such divine goodness, as they are unworthy of it; but none so unworthy of it as myself. I, who was raised by him to such a height; taken in, as you must well know, a poor base-born child, adopted by him, and treated as his own son, to dare by my follies to disoblige him, to draw his vengeance upon me. Yes, I deserve it all; for I will never be so ungrateful as ever to think he hath done an act of injustice by me. No, I deserve to be turned out of doors, as I am. And now, madam, says he, I believe you will not blame me for turning soldier, especially with such a fortune as this in my pocket. At which words he shook a purse, which had but very little in it, and which still appeared to the landlady to have less.
My good landlady was (according to vulgar phrase) struck all of a heap by this relation. She answered coldly, That to be sure people were the best judges what was most proper for their circumstances. But hark, says she, I think I hear somebody call. Coming! coming! the devils in all our volk; nobody hath any ears. I must go down-stairs; if you want any more breakfast the maid will come up. Coming! At which words, without taking any leave, she flung out of the room; for the lower sort of people are very tenacious of respect; and though they are contented to give this gratis to persons of quality, yet they never confer it on those of their own order without taking care to be well paid for their pains.