Henry Fielding. (17071754). The History of Tom Jones.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction. 1917.
Book XI. Containing about Three Days
II. The Adventures Which Sophia Met with After Her Leaving Upton
OUR history, just before it was obliged to turn about and travel backwards, had mentioned the departure of Sophia and her maid from the inn; we shall now therefore pursue the steps of that lovely creature, and leave her unworthy lover a little longer to bemoan his ill-luck, or rather his ill-conduct.
Sophia having directed her guide to travel through byeroads, across the country, they now passed the Severn, and had scarce got a mile from the inn, when the young lady, looking behind her, saw several horses coming after on full speed. This greatly alarmed her fears, and she called to the guide to put on as fast as possible.
He immediately obeyed her, and away they rode a full gallop. But the faster they went, the faster were they followed; and as the horses behind were somewhat swifter than those before, so the former were at length overtaken. A happy circumstance for poor Sophia; whose fears, joined to her fatigue, had almost overpowered her spirits; but she was now instantly relieved by a female voice, that greeted her in the softest manner, and with the utmost civility. This greeting Sophia, as soon as she could recover her breath, with like civility, and with the highest satisfaction to herself, returned.
The travellers who joined Sophia, and who had given her such terror, consisted, like her own company, of two females and a guide. The two parties proceeded three full miles together before any one offered again to open their mouths; when our heroine, having pretty well got the better of her fear (but yet being somewhat surprized that the other still continued to attend her, as she pursued no great road, and had already passed through several turnings), accosted the strange lady in a most obliging tone, and said, She was very happy to find they were both travelling the same way. The other, who, like a ghost, only wanted to be spoke to, readily answered, That the happiness was entirely hers; that she was a perfect stranger in that country, and was so overjoyed at meeting a companion of her own sex, that she had perhaps been guilty of an impertinence, which required great apology, in keeping pace with her. More civilities passed between these two ladies; for Mrs. Honour had now given place to the fine habit of the stranger, and had fallen into the rear.
But, though Sophia had great curiosity to know why the other lady continued to travel on through the same byeroads with herself, nay, though this gave her some uneasiness, yet fear, or modesty, or some other consideration, restrained her from asking the question.
The strange lady now laboured under a difficulty which appears almost below the dignity of history to mention. Her bonnet had been blown her head not less than five times within the last mile; nor could she come at any ribbon or handkerchief to tie it under her chin. When Sophia was informed of this, she immediately supplied her with a handkerchief for this purpose; which while she was pulling from her pocket, she perhaps too much neglected the management of her horse, for the beast, now unluckily making a false step, fell upon his fore-legs, and threw his fair rider from his back.
Though Sophia came head foremost to the ground, she happily received not the least damage: and the same circumstances which had perhaps contributed to her fall now preserved her from confusion; for the lane which they were then passing was narrow, and very much overgrown with trees, so that the moon could here afford very little light, and was moreover, at present, so obscured in a cloud, that it was almost perfectly dark. By these means the young ladys modesty, which was extremely delicate, escaped as free from injury as her limbs, and she was once more reinstated in her saddle, having received no other harm than a little fright by her fall.
Daylight at length appeared in its full lustre; and now the two ladies, who were riding over a common side by side, looking stedfastly at each other, at the same moment both their eyes became fixed; both their horses stopt, and, both speaking together, with equal joy pronounced, the one the name of Sophia, the other that of Harriet.
This unexpected encounter surprized the ladies much more than I believe it will the surprized reader, who must have imagined that the strange lady could be no other than Mrs. Fitzpatrick, the cousin of Miss Western, whom we before mentioned to have sallied from the inn a few minutes after her.
So great was the surprize and joy which these two cousins conceived at this meeting (for they had formerly been most intimate acquaintance and friends, and had long lived together with their aunt Western), that it is impossible to recount half the congratulations which passed between them, before either asked a very natural question of the other, namely, whither she was going?
This at last, however, came first from Mrs. Fitzpatrick; but, easy and natural as the question may seem, Sophia found it difficult to give it a very ready and certain answer. She begged her cousin therefore to suspend all curiosity till they arrived at some inn, which I suppose, says she, can hardly be far distant; and, believe me, Harriet, I suspend as much curiosity on my side; for, indeed, I believe our astonishment is pretty equal.
The conversation which passed between these ladies on the road was, I apprehend, little worth relating; and less certainly was that between the two waiting-women; for they likewise began to pay their compliments to each other. As for the guides, they were debarred from the pleasure of discourse, the one being placed in the van, and the other obliged to bring up the rear.
In this posture they travelled many hours, till they came into a wide and well-beaten road, which, as they turned to the right, soon brought them to a very fair promising inn, where they all alighted: but so fatigued was Sophia, that as she had sat her horse during the last five or six miles with great difficulty, so was she now incapable of dismounting from his without assistance. This the landlord, who had hold of her horse, presently perceiving, offered to life her in his arms from her saddle; and she too readily accepted the tender of his service. Indeed fortune seems to have resolved to put Sophia to the blush that day, and the second malicious attempt succeeded better than the first; for my landlord had no sooner received the young lady in his arms, than his feet, which the gout had lately very severely handled, gave way, and down he tumbled; but, at the same time, with no less dexterity than gallantry, contrived to throw himself under his charming burden, so that he alone received any bruise from the fall; for the great injury which happened to Sophia was a violent shock given to her modesty by an immoderate grin, which, at her rising from the ground, she observed in the countenances of most of the bye-standers. This made her suspect what had really happened, and what we shall not here relate for the indulgence of those readers who are capable of laughing at the offence given to a young ladys delicacy. Accidents of this kind we have never regarded in a comical light; nor will we scruple to say that he must have a very inadequate idea of the modesty of a beautiful young woman, who would wish to sacrifice it to so paltry a satisfaction as can arise from laughter.
This fright and shock, joined to the violent fatigue which both her mind and body had undergone, almost overcame the excellent constitution of Sophia, and she had scarce strength sufficient to totter into the inn, leaning on the arm of her maid. Here she was no sooner seated than she called for a glass of water; but Mrs. Honour, very judiciously, in my opinion, changed it into a glass of wine.
Mrs. Fitzpatrick, hearing from Mrs. Honour that Sophia had not been in bed during the two last nights, and observing her to look very pale and wan with her fatigue, earnestly entreated her to refresh herself with some sleep. She was yet a stranger to her history, or her apprehensions; but, had she known both, she would have given the same advice; for rest was visibly necessary for her; and their long journey through bye-roads so entirely removed all danger of pursuit, that she was herself perfectly easy on that account.
Sophia was easily prevailed on to follow the counsel of her friend, which was heartily seconded by her maid. Mrs. Fitzpatrick likewise offered to bear her cousin company, which Sophia, with much complacence, accepted.
The mistress was no sooner in bed than the maid prepared to follow her example. She began to make many apologies to her sister Abigail for leaving her alone in so horrid a place as an inn; but the other stopt her short, being as well inclined to a nap as herself, and desired the honour of being her bed-fellow. Sophias maid agreed to give her a share of her bed, but put in her claim to all the honour. So, after many courtsies and compliments, to bed together went the waiting-woman, as their mistresses had done before them.
It was usual with my landlord (as indeed it is with the whole fraternity, to enquire particularly of all coachmen, footmen, postboys, and others, into the names of all his guests; what their estate was, and where it lay. It cannot therefore be wondered at that the many particular circumstances which attended our travellers, and especially their retiring all to sleep at so extraordinary and unusual an hour as ten in the morning, should excite his curiosity. As soon, therefore, as the guides entered the kitchen, he began to examine who the ladies were, and whence they came; but the guides, though they faithfully related all they knew, gave him very little satisfaction. On the contrary, they rather enflamed his curiosity than extinguished it.
This landlord had the character, among all his neighbours, of being a very sagacious fellow. He was thought to see farther and deeper into things than any man in the parish, the parson himself not excepted. Perhaps his look had contributed not a little to procure him his reputation: for, there was in this something wonderfully wise and significant, especially when he had a pipe in his mouth; which, indeed, he seldom was without. His behaviour, likewise, greatly assisted in promoting the opinion of his wisdom. In his deportment he was solemn, if not sullen; and when he spoke, which was seldom, he always delivered himself in a slow voice; and, though his sentences were short, they were still interrupted with many hums and has, ay ays. and other expletives: so that, though he accompanied his words with certain explanatory gestures, such as shaking or nodding the head, or pointing with his fore-finger, he generally left his hearers to understand more than he expressed; nay, he commonly gave them a hint that he knew much more than he thought proper to disclose. This last circumstance alone may, indeed, very well account for his character of wisdom; since men are strangely inclined to worship what they do not understand. A grand secret, upon which several imposers on mankind have totally relied for the success of their frauds.
This polite person, now taking his wife aside, asked her what she thought of the ladies lately arrived? Think of them? said the wife, why, what should I think of them? I know, answered he, what I think. The guides tell strange stories. One pretends to be come from Gloucester, and the other from Upton; and neither of them, for what I can find, can tell whither they are going. But what people ever travel across the country from Upton hither, especially to London? And one of the maid-servants, before she alighted from her horse, asked if this was not the London road? Now I have put all these circumstances together, and whom do you think I have found them out to be? Nay, answered she, you know I never pretend to guess at your discoveries.It is a good girl, replied he, chucking her under the chin; I must own you have always submitted to my knowledge of these matters. Why, then, depend upon it; mind what I saydepend upon it, they are certainly some of the rebel ladies, who, they say, travel with the young Chevalier; and have a taken roundabout way to escape the dukes army.
Husband, quoth the wife, you have certainly hit it; for one of them is dressed as fine as any princess; and, to be sure, she looks for all the world like one.But yet, when I consider one thingWhen you consider, cries the landlord contemptuouslyCome, pray lets hear what you consider.Why, it is, answered the wife, that she is too humble to be any very great lady: for, while our Betty was warming the bed, she called her nothing but child, and my dear, and sweetheart; and, when Betty offered to pull off her shoes and stockings, she would not suffer her, saying, she would not give her the trouble.
Pugh! answered the husband, that is nothing. Dost think, because you have seen some great ladies rude and uncivil to persons below them, that none of them know how to behave themselves when they come before their inferiors? I think I know people of fashion when I see themI think I do. Did not she call for a glass of water when she came in? Another sort of women would have called for a dram; you know they would. If she be not a woman of very great quality, sell me for a fool; and, I believe, those who buy me will have a bad bargain Now, would a woman of her quality travel without a footman, unless upon some such extraordinary occasion? Nay, to be sure, husband, cries she, you know these matters better than I, or most folk. I think I do know something, said he. To be sure, answered the wife, the poor little heart looked so piteous, when she sat down in the chair, I protest I could not help having a compassion for her almost as much as if she had been a poor body. But whats to be done, husband? If an she be a rebel, I suppose you intend to betray her up to the court. Well, shes a sweet-tempered, good-humoured lady, be she what she will, and I shall hardly refrain from crying when I hear she is hanged or beheaded. Pooh! answered the husband.But, as to whats to be done, it is not so easy a matter to determine. I hope, before she goes away, we shall have the news of a battle; for, if the Chevalier should get the better, she may gain us interest at court, and make our fortunes without betraying her. Why thats true, replied the wife; and I heartily hope she will have it in her power. Certainly shes a sweet good lady; it would go horribly against me to have her come to any harm. Pooh! cries the landlord, women are always so tender-hearted. Why, you would not harbour rebels, would you? No, certainly, answered the wife; and as for betraying her, come what will on t, nobody can blame us. It is what anybody would do in our case.
While our politic landlord, who had not, we see, undeservedly the reputation of great wisdom among his neighbours, was engaged in debating this matter with himself (for he paid little attention to the opinion of his wife), news arrived that the rebels had given the duke the slip, and had got a days march towards London; and soon after arrived a famous Jacobite squire, who, with great joy in his countenance, shook the landlord by the hand, saying, Alls our own, boy, ten thousand honest Frenchmen are landed in Suffolk. Old England for ever! ten thousand French, my brave lad! I am going to tap away directly.
This news determined the opinion of the wise man, and he resolved to make his court to the young lady when she arose; for he had now (he said) discovered that she was no other than Madam Jenny Cameron herself.