Henry Fielding. (17071754). The History of Tom Jones.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction. 1917.
Book XVI. Containing the Space of Five Days
II. A Whimsical Adventure Which Befel the Squire
WE must now convey the reader to Mr. Westerns lodgings, which were in Piccadilly, where he was placed by the recommendation of the landlord at the Hercules Pillars at Hyde Park Corner; for at the inn, which was the first he saw on his arrival in town, he placed his horses, and in those lodgings, which were the first he heard of, he deposited himself.
Here, when Sophia alighted from the hackney-coach, which brought her from the house of Lady Bellaston, she desired to retire to the apartment provided for her; to which her father very readily agreed, and whither he attended her himself. A short dialogue, neither very material nor pleasant to relate minutely, then passed between them, in which he pressed her vehemently to give her consent to the marriage with Blifil, who, as he acquainted her, was to be in town in a few days; but, instead of complying, she gave a more peremptory and resolute refusal than she had ever done before. This so incensed her father, that after many bitter vows, that he would force her to have him whether she would or no, he departed from her with many hard words and curses, locked the door, and put the key into his pocket.
While Sophia was left with no other company than what attend the closest state prisoner, namely, fire and candle, the squire sat down to regale himself over a bottle of wine, with his parson and the landlord of the Hercules Pillars, who, as the squire said, would make an excellent third man, and could inform them of the news of the town, and how affairs went; for to be sure, says he, he knows a great deal, since the horses of many of the quality stand at his house.
In this agreeable society Mr. Western past that evening and great part of the succeeding day, during which period nothing happened of sufficient consequence to find a place in this history. All this time Sophia past by herself; for her father swore she should never come out of her chamber alive, unless she first consented to marry Blifil; nor did he ever suffer the door to be unlocked, unless to convey her food, on which occasions he always attended himself.
The doctor returned with an account that it was a very well-drest man, and by the ribbon in his hat he took him for an officer of the army; that he said he had some particular business, which he could deliver to none but Mr. Western himself.
An officer! cries the squire; what can any such fellow have to do with me? If he wants an order for baggage-waggons, I am no justice of peace here, nor can I grant a warrant.Let un come up then, if he must speak to me.
His lordship, said the gentleman, is willing to impute everything to the effect of liquor, and the most trifling acknowledgment of that kind will set everything right; for as he hath the most violent attachment to your daughter, you, sir, are the last person upon earth from whom he would resent an affront; and happy is it for you both that he hath given such public demonstrations of his courage as to be able to put up an affair of this kind without danger of any imputation on his honour. All he desires, therefore, is, that you will before me make some acknowledgment; the slightest in the world will be sufficient; and he intends this afternoon to pay his respects to you, in order to obtain your leave of visiting the young lady on the footing of a lover.
I dont understand much of what you say, sir, said the squire; but I suppose, by what you talk about my daughter, that this is the lord which my cousin Lady Bellaston, mentioned to me, and said something about his courting my daughter. If so be that how that be the caseyou may give my service to his lordship, and tell un the girl is disposed of already.
Lookee, sir, answered the squire; to be very plain, my daughter is bespoke already; but if she was not, I would not marry her to a lord upon any account; I hate all lords; they are a parcel of courtiers and Hanoverians, and I will have nothing to do with them.
I am sure, sir, quoth the other, you are too much a gentleman to send such a message; you will not, I am convinced, have it said of you, that, after having affronted a noble peer, you refuse him satisfaction. His lordship would have been willing, from his great regard to the young lady, to have made up matters in another way; but unless he is to look on you as a father, his honour will not suffer his putting up such an indignity as you must be sensible you offered him.
Upon these words the gentleman returned a very short verbal rebuke, and this he accompanied at the same time with some manual remonstrances, which no sooner reached the ears of Mr. Western, than that worthy squire began to caper very briskly about the room, bellowing at the same time with all his might, as if desirous to summon a greater number of spectators to behold his agility.
The parson, who had left great part of the tankard unfinished, was not retired far; he immediately attended therefore on the squires vociferation, crying, Bless me! sir, whats the matter?Matter! quoth the squire, heres a highwayman, I believe, who wants to rob and murder mefor he hath fallen upon me with that stick there in his hand, when I wish I may be dnd if I gid un the least provocation.
No, as I hope to be saved, answered the squire, I believe I might say, T was a lie that I had offered any affront to my lordbut I never said the word, you lie.I understand myself better, and you might have understood yourself better than to fall upon a naked man. If I had a stick in my hand, you would not have dared strike me. Id have knocked thy lantern jaws about thy ears. Come down into yard this minute, and Ill take a bout with thee at single stick for a broken head, that I will; or I will go into naked room and box thee for a belly-full. At unt half a man, at unt, Im sure.
The captain, with some indignation, replied, I see, sir, you are below my notice, and I shall inform his lordship you are below his. I am sorry I have dirtied my fingers with you. At which words he withdrew, the parson interposing to prevent the squire from stopping him, in which he easily prevailed, as the other, though he made some efforts for the purpose, did not seem very violently bent on success. However, when the captain was departed, the squire sent many curses and some menaces after him; but as these did not set out from his lips till the officer was at the bottom of the stairs, and grew louder and louder as he was more and more remote, they did not reach his ears, or at least did not retard his departure.
Poor Sophia, however, who, in her prison, heard all her fathers outcries from first to last, began now first to thunder with her foot, and afterwards to scream as loudly as the old gentleman himself had done before, though in a much sweeter voice. These screams soon silenced the squire and turned all his consideration towards his daughter, whom he loved so tenderly, that the least apprehension of any harm happening to her, threw him presently into agonies; for, except in that single instance in which the whole future happiness of her life was concerned, she was sovereign mistress of his inclinations.
Having ended his rage against the captain, with swearing he would take the law of him, the squire now mounted upstairs to Sophia, whom, as soon as he had unlocked and opened the door, he found all pale and breathless. The moment, however, that she saw her father, she collected all her spirits, and, catching him hold by the hand, she cryed passionately, O my dear sir, I am almost frightened to death! I hope to heaven no harm hath happened to you. No, no, cries the squire, no great harm. The rascal hath not hurt me much, but rat me if I dont ha the la o un. Pray, dear sir, says she, tell me whats the matter; who is it that hath insulted you? I dont know the name o un, answered Western; some officer fellow, I suppose, that we are to pay for beating us; but Ill make him pay this bout, if the rascal hath got anything, which I suppose he hath not. For thof he was drest out so vine, I question whether he had got a voot of land in the world. But, dear sir, cries she, what was the occasion of your quarrel? What should it be, Sophy, answered the squire, but about you, Sophy? All my misfortunes are about you; you will be the death of your poor father at last. Heres a varlet of a lord, the Lord knows who, forsooth! who hath a taan a liking to you, and because I would not gi un my consent, he sent me a kallenge. Come, do be a good girl, Sophy, and put an end to all your fathers troubles; come, do consent to ha un; he will be in town within this day or two; do but promise me to marry un as soon as he comes, and you will make me the happiest man in the world, and I will make you the happiest woman; you shall have the finest cloaths in London, and the finest jewels, and a coach and six at your command. I promised Allworthy already to give up half my estateodrabbet it! I should hardly stick at giving up the whole. Will my papa be so kind, says she, as to hear me speak?Why wout ask, Sophy? cries he, when dost know I had rather hear thy voice than the musick of the best pack of dogs in England.Hear thee, my dear little girl! I hope I shall hear thee as long as I live; for if I was ever to lose that pleasure, I would not gee a brass varden to live a moment longer. Indeed, Sophy, you do not know how I love you, indeed you dont, or you never could have run away and left your poor father, who hath no other joy, no other comfort upon earth, but his little Sophy. At these words the tears stood in his eyes; and Sophia (with the tears streaming from hers) answered, Indeed, my dear papa, I know you have loved me tenderly, and heaven is my witness how sincerely I have returned your affection; nor could anything but an apprehension of being forced into the arms of this man have driven me to run from a father whom I love so passionately, that I would, with pleasure, sacrifice my life to his happiness; nay, I have endeavoured to reason myself into doing more, and had almost worked up a resolution to endure the most miserable of all lives, to comply with your inclination. It was that resolution alone to which I could not force my mind; nor can I ever. Here the squire began to look wild, and the foam appeared at his lips, which Sophia, observing, begged to be heard out, and then proceeded: If my fathers life, his health, or any real happiness of his was at stake, here stands your resolved daughter; may heaven blast me if there is a misery I would not suffer to preserve you!No, that most detested, most loathsome of all lots would I embrace. I would give my hand to Blifil for your sake.I tell thee, it will preserve me, answered the father; it will give me health, happiness, life, everything.Upon my soul I shall die if dost refuse me; I shall break my heart, I shall, upon my soul.Is it possible, says she, you can have such a desire to make me miserable?I tell thee noa, answered he loudly, dn me if there is a thing upon earth I would not do to see thee happy.And will not my dear papa allow me to have the best knowledge of what will make me so? If it be true that happiness consists in opinion, what must be my condition, when I shall think myself the most miserable of all the wretches upon earth? Better think yourself so, said he, than know it by being married to a poor bastardly vagabond. If it will content you, sir, said Sophia, I will give you the most solemn promise never to marry him, nor any other, while my papa lives, without his consent. Let me dedicate my whole life to your service; let me be again your poor Sophy, and my whole business and pleasure be, as it hath been, to please and divert you. Lookee, Sophy, answered the squire, I am not to be choused in this manner. Your aunt Western would then have reason to think me the fool she doth. No, no, Sophy, Id have you to know I have a got more wisdom, and know more of the world, than to take the word of a woman in a matter where a man is concerned. How, sir, have I deserved this want of confidence? said she; have I ever broke a single promise to you? or have I ever been found guilty of a falsehood from my cradle? Lookee, Sophy, cries he; thats neither here nor there. I am determined upon this match, and have him you shall, dn me if shat unt. Dn me if shat unt, though dost hang thyself the next morning. At repeating which words he clinched his fist, knit his brows, bit his lips, and thundered so loud, that the poor afflicted, terrified Sophia sunk trembling into her chair, and, had not a flood of tears come immediately to her relief, perhaps worse had followed.
Western beheld the deplorable condition of his daughter with no more contrition or remorse than the turnkey of Newgate feels at viewing the agonies of a tender wife, when taking her last farewell of her condemned husband; or rather he looked down on her with the same emotions which arise in an honest fair tradesman, who sees his debtor dragged to prison for £10, which, though a just debt, the wretch is wickedly unable to pay. Or, to hit the case still more nearly, he felt the same compunction with a bawd, when some poor innocent, whom she hath ensnared into her hands, falls into fits at the first proposal of what is called seeing company. Indeed this resemblance would be exact, was it not that the bawd hath an interest in what she doth, and the father, though perhaps he may blindly think otherwise, can, in reality, have none in urging his daughter to almost an equal prostitution.
In this condition he left his poor Sophia, and, departing with a very vulgar observation on the effect of tears, he locked the room, and returned to the parson, who said everything he durst in behalf of the young lady, which, though perhaps it was not quite so much as his duty required, yet was it sufficient to throw the squire into a violent rage, and into many indecent reflections on the whole body of the clergy, which we have too great an honour for that sacred function to commit to paper.