Henry Fielding. (17071754). The History of Tom Jones.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction. 1917.
Book IX. Containing Twelve Hours
IV. In Which the Arrival of a Man of War Puts a Final End to Hostilities
A SERJEANT and a file of musqueteers, with a deserter in their custody, arrived about this time. The serjeant presently enquired for the principal magistrate of the town, and was informed by my landlord, that he himself was vested in that office. He then demanded his billets, together with a mug of beer, and complaining it was cold, spread himself before the kitchen fire.
Mr. Jones was at this time comforting the poor distressed lady, who sat down at a table in the kitchen, and leaning her head upon her arm, was bemoaning her misfortunes; but lest my fair readers should be in pain concerning a particular circumstance, I think proper here to acquaint them, that before she had quitted the room above stairs, she had so well covered herself with a pillowbeer which she there found, that her regard to decency was not in the least violated by the presence of so many men as were now in the room.
One of the soldiers now went up to the serjeant, and whispered something in his ear; upon which he stedfastly fixed his eyes on the lady, and having looked at her for near a minute, he came up to her, saying, I ask pardon, madam; but I am certain I am not deceived; you can be no other person than Captain Waterss lady?
The poor woman, who in her present distress had very little regarded the face of any person present, no sooner looked at the serjeant than she presently recollected him, and calling him by his name, answered, That she was indeed the unhappy person he imagined her to be; but added, I wonder any one should know me in this disguise. To which the serjeant replied, He was very much surprized to see her ladyship in such a dress, and was afraid some accident had happened to her.An accident hath happened to me, indeed, says she, and I am highly obliged to this gentleman (pointing to Jones) that it was not a fatal one, or that I am now living to mention it.Whatever the gentleman hath done, cries the serjeant, I am sure the captain will make him amends for it; and if I can be of any service, your ladyship may command me, and I shall think myself very happy to have it in my power to serve your ladyship; and so indeed may any one, for I know the captain will well reward them for it.
The landlady, who heard from the stairs all that past between the serjeant and Mrs. Waters came hastily down, and running directly to her, began to ask pardon for the offences she had committed, begging that all might be imputed to ignorance of her quality: for, Lud! madam, says she, how should I have imagined that a lady of your fashion would appear in such a dress? I am sure, madam, if I had once suspected that your ladyship was your ladyship, I would sooner have burnt my tongue out, than have said what I have said; and I hope your ladyship will accept of a gown, till you can get your own cloaths.
Prithee, woman, says Mrs. Waters, cease your impertinence: how can you imagine I should concern myself about anything which comes from the lips of such low creatures as yourself? But I am surprized at your assurance in thinking after what is past that I will condescend to put on any of your dirty things. I would have you know, creature, I have a spirit above that.
Here Jones interfered, and begged Mrs. Waters to forgive the landlady, and to accept her gown: for I must confess, cries he, our appearance was a little suspicious when first we came in; and I am well assured all this good woman did was, as she professed, out of regard to the reputation of her house.
Yes, upon my truly was it, says she: the gentleman speaks very much like a gentleman, and I see very plainly is so; and to be certain the house is well known to be a house of as good reputation as any on the road, and though I say it, is frequented by gentry of the best quality, both Irish and English. I defy anybody to say black is my eye, for that matter. And, as I was saying, if I had known your ladyship to be your ladyship, I would as soon have burnt my fingers as have affronted your ladyship; but truly where gentry come and spend their money, I am not willing that they should be scandalized by a set of poor shabby vermin, that, wherever they go, leave more lice than money behind them; such folks never raise my compassion, for to be certain it is foolish to have any for them; and if our justices did as they ought, they would be all whipt out of the kingdom, for to be certain it is what is most fitting for them. But as for your ladyship, I am heartily sorry your ladyship hath had a misfortune, and if your ladyship will do me the honour to wear my cloaths till you can get some of your ladyships own, to be certain the best I have is at your ladyships service.
Whether cold, shame, or the persuasions of Mr. Jones prevailed most on Mrs. Waters, I will not determine, but she suffered herself to be pacified by this speech of my landlady, and retired with that good woman, in order to apparel herself in a decent manner.
My landlord was likewise beginning his oration to Jones, but was presently interrupted by that generous youth, who shook him heartily by the hand, and assured him of entire forgiveness, saying, If you are satisfied, my worthy friend, I promise you I am; and indeed, in one sense, the landlord had the better reason to be satisfied; for he had received a bellyfull of drubbing, whereas Jones had scarce felt a single blow.
Partridge, who had been all this time washing his bloody nose at the pump, returned into the kitchen at the instant when his master and the landlord were shaking hands with each other. As he was of a peaceable disposition, he was pleased with those symptoms of reconciliation; and though his face bore some marks of Susans fist, and many more of her nails, he rather chose to be contented with his fortune in the last battle than to endeavour at bettering it in another.
The heroic Susan was likewise well contended with her victory, though it had cost her a black eye, which Partridge had given her at the first onset. Between these two, therefore, a league was struck, and those hands which had been the instruments of war became now the mediators of peace.
Matters were thus restored to a perfect calm; at which the serjeant, though it may seem so contrary to the principles of his profession, testified his approbation. Why now, thats friendly, said he; dn me, I hate to see two people bear ill-will to one another after they have had a tussle. The only way when friends quarrel is to see it out fairly in a friendly manner, as a man may call it, either with a fist, or sword, or pistol, according as they like, and then let it be all over; for my own part, dn me if ever I love my friend better than when I am fighting with him! To bear malice is more like a Frenchman than an Englishman.
He then proposed a libation as a necessary part of the ceremony at all treaties of this kind. Perhaps the reader may here conclude that he was well versed in antient history; but this, though highly probable, as he cited no authority to support the custom, I will not affirm with any confidence. Most likely indeed it is, that he founded his opinion on very good authority, since he confirmed it with many violent oaths.
Jones no sooner heard the proposal than, immediately agreeing with the learned serjeant, he ordered a bowl, or rather a large mug, filled with the liquor used on these occasions, to be brought in, and then began the ceremony himself. He placed his right hand in that of the landlord, and, seizing the bowl with his left, uttered the usual words, and then made his libation. After which, the same was observed by all present. Indeed, there is very little need of being particular in describing the whole form, as it differed so little from those libations of which so much is recorded in antient authors and their modern transcribers. The principal difference lay in two instances; for, first, the present company poured the liquor only down their throats; and, secondly, the serjeant, who officiated as priest drank the last; but he preserved, I believe, the antient form, in swallowing much the largest draught of the whole company, and in being the only person present who contributed nothing towards the libation besides his good offices in assisting at the performance.
The good people now ranged themselves round the kitchen fire, where good humour seemed to maintain an absolute dominion; and Partridge not only forgot his shameful defeat, but converted hunger into thirst, and soon became extremely facetious. We must however quit this agreeable assembly for a while, and attend Mr. Jones to Mrs. Waterss apartment, where the dinner which he had bespoke was now on the table. Indeed, it took no long time in preparing, having been all drest three days before, and required nothing more from the cook than to warm it over again.