Henry Fielding. (17071754). The History of Tom Jones.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction. 1917.
Book XIII. Containing the Space of Twelve Days
III. A Project of Mrs. Fitzpatrick, and Her Visit to Lady Bellaston
WHEN Mrs. Fitzpatrick retired to rest, her thoughts were entirely taken up by her cousin Sophia and Mr. Jones. She was, indeed, a little offended with the former, for the disingenuity which she now discovered. In which meditation she had not long exercised her imagination before the following conceit suggested itself; that could she possibly become the means of preserving Sophia from this man, and of restoring her to her father, she should, in all human probability, by so great a service to the family, reconcile to herself both her uncle and her aunt Western.
As this was one of her most favourite wishes, so the hope of success seemed so reasonable, that nothing remained but to consider of proper methods to accomplish her scheme. To attempt to reason the case with Sophia did not appear to her one of those methods: for as Betty had reported from Mrs. Honour, that Sophia had a violent inclination to Jones, she conceived that to dissuade her from the match was an endeavour of the same kind, as it would be very heartily and earnestly to entreat a moth not to fly into a candle.
If the reader will please to remember that the acquaintance which Sophia had with Lady Bellaston was contracted at the house of Mrs. Western, and must have grown at the very time when Mrs. Fitzpatrick lived with this latter lady, he will want no information, that Mrs. Fitzpatrick must have been acquainted with her likewise. They were, besides, both equally her distant relations.
After much consideration, therefore, she resolved to go early in the morning to that lady, and endeavour to see her, unknown to Sophia, and to acquaint her with the whole affair. For she did not in the least doubt, but that the prudent lady, who had often ridiculed romantic love, and indiscreet marriages, in her conversation, would very readily concur in her sentiments concerning this match, and would lend her utmost assistance to prevent it.
This resolution she accordingly executed; and the next morning before the sun, she huddled on her cloaths, and at a very unfashionable, unseasonable, unvisitable hour, went to Lady Bellaston, to whom she got access, without the least knowledge or suspicion of Sophia, who, though not asleep, lay at that time awake in her bed, with Honour snoring by her side.
Mrs. Fitzpatrick made many apologies for an early, abrupt visit, at an hour when, she said, she should not have thought of disturbing her ladyship, but upon business of the utmost consequence. She then opened the whole affair, told all she had heard from Betty; and did not forget the visit which Jones had paid to herself the preceding evening.
Lady Bellaston answered with a smile, Then you have seen this terrible man, madam; pray, is he so very fine a figure as he is represented? For Etoff entertained me last night almost two hours with him. The wench I believe is in love with him by reputation. Here the reader will be apt to wonder; but the truth is, that Mrs. Etoff, who had the honour to pin and unpin the Lady Bellaston, had received compleat information concerning the said Mr. Jones, and had faithfully conveyed the same to her lady last night (or rather that morning) while she was undressing; on which accounts she had been detained in her office above the space of an hour and a half.
The lady indeed, though generally well enough pleased with the narratives of Mrs. Etoff at those seasons, gave an extraordinary attention to her account of Jones; for Honour had described him as a very handsome fellow, and Mrs. Etoff, in her hurry, added so much to the beauty of his person to her report, that Lady Bellaston began to conceive him to be a kind of miracle in nature.
The curiosity which her woman had inspired was now greatly increased by Mrs. Fitzpatrick, who spoke as much in favour of the person of Jones as she had before spoken in dispraise of his birth, character, and fortune.
When Lady Bellaston had heard the whole, she answered gravely, Indeed, madam, this is a matter of great consequence. Nothing can certainly be more commendable than the part you act; and I shall be very glad to have my share in the preservation of a young lady of so much merit, and for whom I have so much esteem.
The lady pondered a little upon this, and thus answeredWhy, no, madam, I think not. Di Western hath described her brother to me to be such a brute, that I cannot consent to put any woman under his power who hath escaped from it. I have heard he behaved like a monster to his own wife, for he is one of those wretches who think they have a right to tyrannise over us, and from such I shall ever esteem it the cause of my sex to rescue any woman who is so unfortunate to be under their power.The business, dear cousin, will be only to keep Miss Western from seeing this young fellow, till the good company, which she will have an opportunity of meeting here, give her a properer turn.
But, madam, replied the lady, it is impossible he should come herethough indeed it is possible he may not get some intelligence where she is, and then may lurk about the houseI wish therefore I knew his person.
Is there no way, madam, by which I could have a sight of him, for, otherwise, you know, cousin, she may contrive to see him here without my knowledge. Mrs. Fitzpatrick answered. That he had threatened her with another visit that afternoon, and that, if her ladyship pleased to do her the honour of calling upon her then, she would hardly fail of seeing him between six and seven: and if he came earlier she would, by some means or other, detain him till her ladyships arrival.Lady Bellaston replied, She would come the moment she could get from dinner, which she supposed would be by seven at farthest; for that it was absolutely necessary she should be acquainted with his person. Upon my word, madam, says she, it was very good to take this care of Miss Western; but common humanity, as well as regard to our family, requires it of us both; for it would be a dreadful match indeed.
Mrs. Fitzpatrick failed not to make a proper return to the compliment which Lady Bellaston had bestowed on her cousin, and, after some little immaterial conversation, withdrew; and, getting as fast as she could into her chair, unseen by Sophia or Honour, returned home.