Henry Fielding. (17071754). The History of Tom Jones.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction. 1917.
Book X. In Which the History Goes Forward about Twelve Hours
III. A Dialogue Between the Landlady and Susan the Chambermaid
THE LANDLADY, remembering that Susan had been the only person out of bed when the door was burst open, resorted presently to her, to enquire into the first occasion of the disturbance, as well as who the strange gentleman was, and when and how he arrived.
Susan related the whole story which the reader knows already, varying the truth only in some circumstances, as she saw convenient, and totally concealing the money which she had received. But whereas her mistress had, in the preface to her inquiry, spoken much in compassion for the fright which the lady had been in concerning any intended depredations on her virtue, Susan could not help endeavouring to quiet the concern which her mistress seemed to be under on that account, by swearing heartily she saw Jones leap out from her bed.
The landlady fell into a violent rage at these words. A likely story, truly, cried she, that a woman should cry out, and endeavour to expose herself, if that was the case! I desire to know what better proof any lady can give of her virtue than her crying out, which, I believe, twenty people can witness for her she did? I beg, madam, you would spread no such scandal of any of my guests; for it will not only reflect on them, but upon the house; and I am sure no vagabonds, nor wicked beggarly people, come here.
Well, says Susan, then I must not believe my own eyes. No, indeed, must you not always, answered her mistress; I would not have believed my own eyes against such good gentlefolks. I have not had a better supper ordered this half-year than they ordered last night; and so easy and good-humoured were they, that they found no fault with my Worcestershire perry, which I sold them for champagne; and to be sure it is as well tasted and as wholesome as the best champagne in the kingdom, otherwise I would scorn to give it em; and they drank me two bottles. No, no, I will never believe any harm of such sober good sort of people.
Susan being thus silenced, her mistress proceeded to other matters. And so you tell me, continued she, that the strange gentleman came post, and there is a footman without with the horses; why, then, he is certainly some of your great gentlefolks too. Why did not you ask him whether hed have any supper? I think he is in the other gentlemans room; go up and ask whether he called. Perhaps hell order something when he finds anybody stirring in the house to dress it. Now dont commit any of your usual blunders, by telling him the fires out, and the fowls alive. And if he should order mutton, dont blab out that we have none. The butcher, I know, killed a sheep just before I went to bed, and he never refuses to cut it up warm when I desire it. Go, remember theres all sorts of mutton and fowls; go, open the door with, Gentlemen, dye call? and if they say nothing, ask what his honour will be pleased to have for supper? Dont forget his honour. Go; if you dont mind all these matters better, youll never come to anything.
Susan departed, and soon returned with an account that the two gentlemen were got both into the same bed. Two gentlemen, says the landlady, in the same bed! thats impossible; they are two arrant scrubs, I warrant them; and I believe young Squire Allworthy guessed right, that the fellow intended to rob her ladyship; for, if he had broke open the ladys door with any of the wicked designs of a gentleman, he would never have sneaked away to another room to save the expense of a supper and a bed to himself. They are certainly thieves, and their searching after a wife is nothing but a pretence.
In these censures my landlady did Mr. Fitzpatrick great injustice; for he was really born a gentleman, though not worth a groat; and though, perhaps, he had some few blemishes in his heart as well as in his head, yet being a sneaking or a niggardly fellow was not one of them. In reality, he was so generous a man, that, whereas he had received a very handsome fortune with his wife, he had now spent every penny of it, except some little pittance which was settled upon her; and, in order to possess himself of this, he had used her with such cruelty, that, together with his jealousy, which was of the bitterest kind, it had forced the poor woman to run away from him.
This gentleman then being well tired with his long journey from Chester in one day, with which, and some good dry blows he had received in the scuffle, his bones were so sore, that, added to the soreness of his mind, it had quite deprived him of any appetite for eating. And being now so violently disappointed in the woman whom, at the maids instance, he had mistaken for his wife, it never once entered into his head that she might nevertheless be in the house, though he had erred in the first person he had attacked. He therefore yielded to the dissuasions of his friend from searching any farther after her that night, and accepted the kind offer of part of his bed.
The footman and post-boy were in a different disposition. They were more ready to order than the landlady was to provide; however, after being pretty well satisfied by them of the real truth of the case, and that Mr. Fitzpatrick was no thief, she was at length prevailed on to set some cold meat before them, which they were devouring with great greediness, when Partridge came into the kitchen. He had been first awaked by the hurry which we have before seen; and while he was endeavouring to compose himself again on his pillow, a screech-owl had given him such a serenade at his window, that he leapt in a most horrible affright from his bed, and, huddling on his cloaths with great expedition, ran down to the protection of the company, whom he heard talking below in the kitchen.
His arrival detained my landlady from returning to her rest; for she was just about to leave the other two guests to the care of Susan; but the friend of young Squire Allworthy was not to be so neglected, especially as he called for a pint of wine to be mulled. She immediately obeyed, by putting the same quantity of perry to the fire; for this readily answered to the name of every kind of wine.
The Irish footman was retired to bed, and the post-boy was going to follow; but Partridge invited him to stay and partake of his wine, which the lad very thankfully accepted. The schoolmaster was indeed afraid to return to bed by himself; and as he did not know how soon he might lose the company of my landlady, he was resolved to secure that of the boy, in whose presence he apprehended no danger from the devil or any of his adherents.
And now arrived another post-boy at the gate; upon which Susan, being ordered out, returned, introducing two young women in riding habits, one of which was so very richly laced, that Partridge and the post-boy instantly started from their chairs, and my landlady fell to her courtsies, and her ladyships, with great eagerness.
The lady in the rich habit said, with a smile of great condescension, If you will give me leave, madam, I will warm myself a few minutes at your kitchen fire, for it is really very cold; but I must insist on disturbing no one from his seat.
This was spoken on account of Partridge, who had retreated to the other end of the room, struck with the utmost awe and astonishment at the splendour of the ladys dress. Indeed, she had a much better title to respect than this; for she was one of the most beautiful creatures in the world.
The lady earnestly desired Partridge to return to his seat; but could not prevail. She then pulled off her gloves, and displayed to the fire two hands, which had every property of snow in them, except that of melting. Her companion, who was indeed her maid, likewise pulled off her gloves, and discovered what bore an exact resemblance, in cold and colour, to a piece of frozen beef.
Why sure, cries the landlady, her ladyships honour can never intend it. O, bless me! farther to-night, indeed! let me beseech your ladyship not to think ontBut, to be sure, your ladyship cant. What will your honour be pleased to have for supper? I have mutton of all kinds, and some nice chicken.
I think, madam, said the lady, it would be rather breakfast than supper; but I cant eat anything; and, if I stay, shall only lie down for an hour or two. However, if you please, madam, you may get me a little sack whey, made very small and thin.
Yes, madam, cries the mistress of the house, I have some excellent white wine.You have no sack, then? says the lady. Yes, ant please your honour, I have; I may challenge the country for thatbut let me beg your ladyship to eat something.
Upon my word, I cant eat a morsel, answered the lady; and I shall be much obliged to you if you will please to get my apartment ready as soon as possible; for I am resolved to be on horseback again in three hours.
Why, Susan, cries the landlady, is there a fire lit yet in the Wild-goose? I am sorry, madam, all my best rooms are full. Several people of the first quality are now in bed. Heres a great young squire, and many other great gentlefolks of quality. Susan answered, That the Irish gentlemen were got into the Wild-goose.
Was ever anything like it? says the mistress; why the devil would you not keep some of the best rooms for the quality, when you know scarce a day passes without some calling here?If they be gentlemen, I am certain, when they know it is for her ladyship, they will get up again.
Not upon my account, says the lady; I will have no person disturbed for me. If you have a room that is commonly decent, it will serve me very well, though it be never so plain. I beg, madam, you will not give yourself so much trouble on my account. O, madam! cries the other, I have several very good rooms for that matter, but none good enough for your honours ladyship. However, as you are so condescending to take up with the best I have, do, Susan, get a fire in the Rose this minute. Will your ladyship be pleased to go up now, or stay till the fire is lighted? I think I have sufficiently warmed myself, answered the lady; so, if you please, I will go now; I am afraid I have kept people, and particularly that gentleman (meaning Partridge), too long in the cold already. Indeed, I cannot bear to think of keeping any person from the fire this dreadful weather.She then departed with her maid, the landlady marching with two lighted candles before her.
When that good woman returned, the conversation in the kitchen was all upon the charms of the young lady. There is indeed in perfect beauty a power which none almost can withstand; for my landlady, though she was not pleased at the negative given to the supper, declared she had never seen so lovely a creature. Partridge ran out into the most extravagant encomiums on her face, though he could not refrain from paying some compliments to the gold lace on her habit; the post-boy sung forth the praises of her goodness, which were likewise echoed by the other post-boy, who was now come in. Shes a true good lady, I warrant her, says he; for she hath mercy upon dumb creatures; for she asked me every now and tan upon the journey, if I did not think she should hurt the horses by riding too fast? and when she came in she charged me to give them as much corn as ever they would eat.
Such charms are there in affability, and so sure is it to attract the praises of all kinds of people. It may indeed be compared to the celebrated Mrs. Hussey.1 It is equally sure to set off every female perfection to the highest advantage, and to palliate and conceal every defect. A short reflection, which we could not forbear making in this place, where my reader hath seen the loveliness of an affable deportment; and truth will now oblige us to contrast it, by showing the reverse.