Henry Fielding. (17071754). The History of Tom Jones.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction. 1917.
Book XV. In Which the History Advances about Two Days
V. Containing Some Matters Which May Affect, and Others Which May Surprize, the Reader
THE CLOCK had now struck seven, and poor Sophia, alone and melancholy, sat reading a tragedy. It was the Fatal Marriage; and she was now come to that part where the poor distrest Isabella disposes of her wedding-ring.
Here the book dropt from her hand, and a shower of tears ran down into her bosom. In this situation she had continued a minute, when the door opened, and in came Lord Fellamar. Sophia started from her chair at his entrance; and his lordship advancing forwards, and making a low bow, said, I am afraid, Miss Western, I break in upon you abruptly. Indeed, my lord, says she, I must own myself a little surprized at this unexpected visit. If this visit be unexpected, madam, answered Lord Fellamar, my eyes must have been very faithless interpreters of my heart, when last I had the honour of seeing you; for surely you could not otherwise have hoped to detain my heart in your possession, without receiving a visit from its owner. Sophia, confused as she was, answered this bombast (and very properly I think) with a look of inconceivable disdain. My lord then made another and a longer speech of the same sort. Upon which Sophia, trembling, said, Am I really to conceive your lordship to be out of your senses? Sure, my lord, there is no other excuse for such behaviour. I am, indeed, madam, in the situation you suppose, cries his lordship; and sure you will pardon the effects of a frenzy which you yourself have occasioned; for love hath so totally deprived me of reason, that I am scarce accountable for any of my actions. Upon my word, my lord, said Sophia, I neither understand your words nor your behaviour. Suffer me then, madam, cries he, at your feet to explain both, by laying open my soul to you, and declaring that I doat on you to the highest degree of distraction. O most adorable, most divine creature! what language can express the sentiments of my heart? I do assure you, my lord, said Sophia, I shall not stay to hear any more of this. Do not, cries he, think of leaving me thus cruelly; could you know half the torments which I feel, that tender bosom must pity what those eyes have caused. Then fetching a deep sigh, and laying hold of her hand, he ran on for some minutes in a strain which would be little more pleasing to the reader than it was to the lady; and at last concluded with a declaration, That if he was master of the world, he would lay it at her feet. Sophia then, forcibly pulling away her hand from his answered with much spirit, I promise you, sir, your world and its master I should spurn from me with equal contempt. She then offered to go; and Lord Fellamar, again laying hold of her hand, said, Pardon me, my beloved angel, freedoms which nothing but despair could have tempted me to take.Believe me, could I have had any hope that my title and fortune, neither of them inconsiderable, unless when compared with your worth, would have been accepted, I had, in the humblest manner, presented them to your acceptance.But I cannot lose you.By heaven, I will sooner part with my soul!You are, you must, you shall be only mine. My lord, says she, I intreat you to desist from a vain pursuit; for, upon my honour, I will never hear you on this subject. Let go my hand, my lord; for I am resolved to go from you this moment; nor will I ever see you more. Then, madam, cries his lordship, I must make the best use of this moment; for I cannot live, nor will I live without you.What do you mean, my lord? said Sophia; I will raise the family. I have no fear, madam, answered he, but of losing you, and that I am resolved to prevent, the only way which despair points to me.He then caught her in his arms: upon which she screamed so loud, that she must have alarmed some one to her assistance, had not Lady Bellaston taken care to remove all ears.
But a more lucky circumstance happened for poor Sophia; another noise now broke forth, which almost drowned her cries; for now the whole house rang with, Where is she? Dn me, Ill unkennel her this instant. Show me her chamber, I say. Where is my daughter? I know shes in the house, and Ill see her if shes above-ground. Show me where she is.At which last words the door flew open, and in came Squire Western, with his parson and a set of myrmidons at his heels.
How miserable must have been the condition of poor Sophia, when the enraged voice of her father was welcome to her ears! Welcome indeed it was, and luckily did he come; for it was the only accident upon earth which could have preserved the peace of her mind from being for ever destroyed.
Sophia, notwithstanding her fright, presently knew her fathers voice; and his lordship, notwithstanding his passion, knew the voice of reason, which peremptorily assured him, it was not now a time for the perpetration of his villany. Hearing, therefore, the voice approach, and hearing likewise whose it was (for as the squire more than once roared forth the word daughter, so Sophia, in the midst of her struggling, cried out upon her father), he thought proper to relinquish his prey, having only disordered her handkerchief, and with his rude lips committed violence on her lovely neck.
If the readers imagination doth not assist me, I shall never be able to describe the situation of these two persons when Western came into the room. Sophia tottered into a chair, where she sat disordered, pale, breathless, bursting with indignation at Lord Fellamar; affrighted, and yet more rejoiced, at the arrival of her father.
His lordship sat down near her, with the bag of his wig hanging over one of his shoulders, the rest of his dress being somewhat disordered, and rather a greater proportion of linen than is usual appearing at his bosom. As to the rest, he was amazed, affrighted, vexed, and ashamed.
As to Squire Western, he happened at this time to be overtaken by an enemy, which very frequently pursues, and seldom fails to overtake, most of the country gentlemen in this kingdom. He was, literally speaking, drunk; which circumstance, together with his natural impetuosity, could produce no other effect than his running immediately up to his daughter, upon whom he fell foul with his tongue in the most inveterate manner; nay, he had probably committed violence with his hands, had not the parson interposed, saying, For heavens sake, sir, animadvert that you are in the house of a great lady. Let me beg you to mitigate your wrath; it should minister a fulness of satisfaction that you have found your daughter; for as to revenge, it belongeth not unto us. I discern great contrition in the countenance of the young lady. I stand assured, if you will forgive her, she will repent her of all past offences, and return unto her duty.
The strength of the parsons arms had at first been of more service than the strength of his rhetoric. However, his last words wrought some effect, and the squire answered, Ill forgee her if she wull ha un. If wot ha un, Sophy, Ill forgee thee all. Why dost unt speak? Shat ha un! dn me, shat ha un! Why dost unt answer? Was ever such a stubborn tuoad?
Power of mine a, answered the squire. You take her part then, you do? A pretty parson, truly, to side with an undutiful child! Yes, yes, I will gee you a living with a pox. Ill gee un to a devil sooner.
My Lady Bellaston now entered the room, and came up to the squire, who no sooner saw her, than, resolving to follow the instructions of his sister, he made her a very civil bow, in the rural manner, and paid her some of his best compliments. He then immediately proceeded to his complaints, and said, There, my lady cousin; there stands the most undutiful child in the world; she hankers after a beggarly rascal, and wont marry one of the greatest matches in all England, that we have provided for her.
Indeed, cousin Western, answered the lady, I am persuaded you wrong my cousin. I am sure she hath a better understanding. I am convinced she will not refuse what she must be sensible is so much to her advantage.
Indeed, Miss Western, said Lady Bellaston, you injure your father; he hath nothing in view but your interest in this match; and I and all your friends must acknowledge the highest honour done to your family in the proposal.
Aye, all of us, quoth the squire; nay, it was no proposal of mine. She knows it was her aunt proposed it to me first.Come, Sophy, once more let me beg you to be a good girl, and gee me your consent before your cousin.
As Lord Fellamar was very well assured that he was meant by Lady Bellaston, so, never having heard nor suspected a word of Blifil, he made no doubt of his being meant by the father. Coming up, therefore, to the squire, he said, Though I have not the honour, sir, of being personally known to you, yet, as I find I have the happiness to have my proposals accepted, let me intercede, sir, in behalf of the young lady, that she may not be more solicited at this time.
Resent my a, quoth the squire. Dont think I am afraid of such a fellow as thee art! because hast got a spit there dangling at thy side. Lay by your spit, and Ill give thee enough of meddling with what doth not belong to thee. Ill teach you to father-in-law me. Ill lick thy jacket.
His lordship was no sooner gone, than Lady Bellaston, coming up to Mr. Western, said, Bless me, sir, what have you done? You know not whom you have affronted; he is a nobleman of the first rank and fortune, and yesterday made proposals to your daughter; and such as I am sure you must accept with the highest pleasure.
Answer for yourself, lady cousin, said the squire, I will have nothing to do with any of your lords. My daughter shall have an honest country gentleman; I have pitched upon one for herand she shall ha un.I am sorry for the trouble she hath given your ladyship with all my heart. Lady Bellaston made a civil speech upon the word trouble; to which the squire answeredWhy, thats kindand I would do as much for your ladyship. To be sure relations should do for one another. So I wish your ladyship a good night.Come, madam, you must go along with me by fair means, or Ill have you carried down to the coach.
Prithee, cries the squire, wout unt persuade me canst not ride in a coach, wouldst? Thats a pretty thing surely! No, no, Ill never let thee out of my sight any more till art married, that I promise thee. Sophia told him she saw he was resolved to break her heart. O break thy heart and be dnd, quoth he, if a good husband will break it. I dont value a brass varden, not a halfpenny, of any undutiful b upon earth. He then took violent hold of her hand; upon which the parson once more interfered, begging him to use gentle methods. At that the squire thundered out a curse, and bid the parson hold his tongue, saying, Atnt in pulpit now? when art a got up there I never mind what dost say; but I wont be priest-ridden, nor taught how to behave myself by thee. I wish your ladyship a good-night. Come along, Sophy; be a good girl, and all shall be well. Shat haun, dn me, shat haun!
Mrs. Honour appeared below-stairs, and with a low curtesy to the squire offered to attend her mistress; but he pushed her away, saying, Hold, madam, hold, you come no more near my house. And will you take my maid away from me? said Sophia. Yes, indeed, madam, will I, cries the squire: you need not fear being without a servant; I will get you another maid, and a better maid than this, who, Id lay five pounds to a crown, is no more a maid than my grannum. No, no, Sophy, she shall contrive no more escapes, I promise you. He then packed up his daughter and the parson into the hackney coach, after which he mounted himself, and ordered it to drive to his lodgings. In the way thither he suffered Sophia to be quiet, and entertained himself with reading a lecture to the parson on good manners, and a proper behaviour to his betters.
It is possible he might not so easily have carried off his daughter from Lady Bellaston, had that good lady desired to have detained her, but, in reality, she was not a little pleased with the confinement into which Sophia was going; and as her project with Lord Fellamar had failed of success, she was well contented that other violent methods were now going to be used in favour of another man.