CONTAINING THE SPACE OF TWELVE DAYS
An invocationCome, bright love of fame, inspire my glowing breast: not thee I call, who, over swelling tides of blood and tears, dost bear the heroe on to glory, while sighs of millions waft his spreading sails; but thee, fair, gentle maid, whom Mnesis, happy nympth, first on the banks of Hebrus did produce. Thee, whom Maeonia educated, whom Mantua charmed, and who, on that fair hill which overlooks the proud metropolis of Britain, sat'st, with thy Milton, sweetly tuning the heroic lyre; fill my ravished fancy with the hopes of charming ages yet to come. Foretel me that some tender maid, whose grandmother is yet unborn, hereafter, when, under the fictitious name of Sophia, she reads the real worth which once existed in my Charlotte, shall from her sympathetic breast send forth the heaving sigh. Do thou teach me not only to foresee, but to enjoy, nay, even to feed on future praise. Comfort me by a solemn assurance, that when the little parlour in which I sit at this instant shall be reduced to a worse furnished box, I shall be read with honour by those who never knew nor saw me, and whom I shall neither know nor see.
And thou, much plumper dame, whom no airy forms nor phantoms of imagination cloathe; whom the well-seasoned beef, and pudding richly stained with plums, delight: thee I call: of whom in a treckschuyte, in some Dutch canal, the fat Jufvrouw Gelt, impregnated by a jolly merchant of Amsterdam, was delivered: in Grub-street school didst thou suck in the clements of thy erudition. Here hast thou, in thy maturer age, taught poetry to tickle not the fancy, but the pride of the patron. Comedy from thee learns a grave and solemn air; while tragedy storms aloud, and rends th' affrighted theatres with its thunders. To soothe thy wearied limbs in slumber, Alderman History tells his tedious tale; and, again, to awaken thee, Monsieur Romance performs his surprizing tricks of dexterity. Nor less thy well-fed bookseller obeys thy influence. By thy advice the heavy, unread, folio lump, which long had dozed on the dusty shelf, piecemealed into numbers, runs nimbly through the nation. Instructed by thee, some books, like quacks, impose on the world by promising wonders; while others turn beaus, and trust all their merits to a gilded outside. Come, thou jolly substance, with thy shining face, keep back thy inspiration, but hold forth thy tempting rewards; thy shining, chinking heap; thy quickly convertible bank-bill, big with unseen riches; thy often-varying stock; the warm, the comfortable house; and, lastly, a fair portion of that bounteous mother, whose flowing breasts yield redundant sustenance for all her numerous offspring, did not some too greedily and wantonly drive their brethren from the teat. Come thou, and if I am too tasteless of thy valuable treasures, warm my heart with the transporting thought of conveying them to others. Tell me, that through thy bounty, the pratling babes, whose innocent play hath often been interrupted by my labours, may one time be amply rewarded for them.
And now this ill-yoked pair, this lean shadow and this fat substance, have prompted me to write, whose assistance shall I invoke to direct my pen?
First, Genius; thou gift of Heaven; without whose aid in vain we struggle against the stream of nature. Thou who dost sow the generous seeds which art nourishes, and brings to perfection. Do thou kindly take me by the hand, and lead me through all the mazes, the winding labyrinths of nature. Initiate me into all those mysteries which profane eyes never beheld. Teach me, which to thee is no difficult task, to know mankind better than they know themselves. Remove that mist which dims the intellects of mortals, and causes them to adore men for their art, or to detest them for their cunning, in deceiving others, when they are, in reality, the objects only of ridicule, for deceiving themselves. Strip off the thin disguise of wisdom from self-conceit, of plenty from avarice, and of glory from ambition. Come, thou that hast inspired thy Aristophanes, thy Lucian, thy Cervantes, thy Rabelais, thy Moliere, thy Shakespear, thy Swift, thy Marivaux, fill my pages with humour; till mankind learn the good-nature to laugh only at the follies of others, and the humility to grieve at their own.
And thou, almost the constant attendant on true genius, Humanity, bring all thy tender sensations. If thou hast already disposed of them all between thy Allen and thy Lyttleton, steal them a little while from their bosoms. Not without these the tender scene is painted. From these alone proceed the noble, disinterested friendship, the melting love, the generous sentiment, the ardent gratitude, the soft compassion, the candid opinion; and all those strong energies of a good mind, which fill the moistened eyes with tears, the glowing cheeks with blood, and swell the heart with tides of grief, joy, and benevolence.
And thou, O Learning! (for without thy assistance nothing pure, nothing correct, can genius produce) do thou guide my pen. Thee in thy favourite fields, where the limpid, gently-rolling Thames washes thy Etonian banks, in early youth I have worshipped. To thee, at thy birchen altar, with true Spartan devotion, I have sacrificed my blood. Come then, and from thy vast, luxuriant stores, in long antiquity piled up, pour forth the rich profusion. Open thy Maeonian and thy Mantuan coffers, with whatever else includes thy philosophic, thy poetic, and thy historical treasures, whether with Greek or Roman characters thou hast chosen to inscribe the ponderous chests: give me a while that key to all thy treasures, which to thy Warburton thou hast entrusted.
Lastly, come Experience, long conversant with the wise, the good, the learned, and the polite. Nor with them only, but with every kind of character, from the minister at his levee, to the bailiff in his spunging-house; from the dutchess at her drum, to the landlady behind her bar. From thee only can the manners of mankind be known; to which the recluse pedant, however great his parts or extensive his learning may be, hath ever been a stranger.
Come all these, and more, if possible; for arduous is the task I have undertaken; and, without all your assistance, will, I find, be too heavy for me to support. But if you all smile on my labours, I hope still to bring them to a happy conclusion.
What befel Mr. Jones on his arrival in LondonThe learned Dr. Misaubin used to say, that the proper direction to him was To Dr. Misaubin, in the World; intimating that there were few people in it to whom his great reputation was not known. And, perhaps, upon a very nice examination into the matter, we shall find that this circumstance bears no inconsiderable part among the many blessings of grandeur.
The great happiness of being known to posterity, with the hopes of which we so delighted ourselves in the preceding chapter, is the portion of few. To have the several elements which compose our names, as Sydenham expresses it, repeated a thousand years hence, is a gift beyond the power of title and wealth; and is scarce to be purchased, unless by the sword and the pen. But to avoid the scandalous imputation, while we yet live, of being one whom nobody knows (a scandal, by the bye, as old as the days of Homer*), will always be the envied portion of those, who have a legal title either to honour or estate.
From that figure, therefore, which the Irish peer, who brought Sophia to town, hath already made in this history, the reader will conclude, doubtless, it must have been an easy matter to have discovered his house in London without knowing the particular street or square which he inhabited, since he must have been one whom everybody knows. To say the truth, so it would have been to any of those tradesmen who are accustomed to attend the regions of the great; for the doors of the great are generally no less easy to find than it is difficult to get entrance into them. But Jones, as well at Partridge, was an entire stranger in London; and as he happened to arrive first in a quarter of the town, the inhabitants of which have very little intercourse with the householders of Hanover or Grosvenor-square (for he entered through Gray's-inn-lane), so he rambled about some time, before he could even find his way to those happy mansions where fortune segregates from the vulgar those magnanimous heroes, the descendants of antient Britons, Saxons, or Danes, whose ancestors, being born in better days, by sundry kinds of merit, have entailed riches and honour on their posterity.
Jones, being at length arrived at those terrestrial Elysian fields, would now soon have discovered his lordship's mansion; but the peer unluckily quitted his former house when he went for Ireland; and as he was just entered into a new one, the fame of his equipage had not yet sufficiently blazed in the neighbourhood; so that, after a successless inquiry till the clock had struck eleven, Jones at last yielded to the advice of Partridge, and retreated to the Bull and Gate in Holborn, that being the inn where he had first alighted, and where he retired to enjoy that kind of repose which usually attends persons in his circumstances.
Early in the morning he again set forth in pursuit of Sophia; and many a weary step he took to no better purpose than before. At last, whether it was that Fortune relented, or whether it was no longer in her power to disappoint him, he came into the very street which was honoured by his lordship's residence; and, being directed to the house, he gave one gentle rap at the door.
The porter, who, from the modesty of the knock, had conceived no high idea of the person approaching, conceived but little better from the appearance of Mr. Jones, who was drest in a suit of fustian, and had by his side the weapon formerly purchased of the serjeant; of which, though the blade might be composed of well-tempered steel, the handle was composed only of brass, and that none of the brightest. When Jones, therefore, enquired after the young lady who had come to town with his lordship, this fellow answered surlily, "That there were no ladies there." Jones then desired to see the master of the house; but was informed that his lordship would see nobody that morning. And upon growing more pressing the porter said, "he had positive orders to let no person in; but if you think proper," said he, "to leave your name, I will acquaint his lordship; and if you call another time you shall know when he will see you."
Jones now declared, "that he had very particular business with the young lady, and could not depart without seeing her." Upon which the porter, with no very agreeable voice or aspect, affirmed, "that there was no young lady in that house, and consequently none could he see;" adding, "sure you are the strangest man I ever met with, for you will not take an answer."
I have often thought that, by the particular description of Cerberus, the porter of hell, in the 6th AEneid, Virgil might possibly intend to satirize the porters of the great men in his time; the picture, at least, resembles those who have the honour to attend at the doors of our great men. The porter in his lodge answers exactly to Cerberus in his den, and, like him, must be appeased by a sop before access can be gained to his master. Perhaps Jones might have seen him in that light, and have recollected the passage where the Sibyl, in order to procure an entrance for Eneas, presents the keeper of the Stygian avenue with such a sop. Jones, in like manner, now began to offer a bribe to the human Cerberus, which a footman overhearing, instantly advanced, and declared, "if Mr. Jones would give him the sum proposed, he would conduct him to the lady." Jones instantly agreed, and was forthwith conducted to the lodging of Mrs. Fitzpatrick, by the very fellow who had attended the ladies thither the day before.
Nothing more aggravates ill success than the near approach to good. The gamester, who loses his party at piquet by a single point, laments his bad luck ten times as much as he who never came within a prospect of the game. So in a lottery, the proprietors of the next numbers to that which wins the great prize, are apt to account themselves much more unfortunate than their fellow-suffers. In short, these kind of hairbreadth missings of happiness look like the insults of Fortune, who may be considered as thus playing tricks with us, and wantonly diverting herself at our expense.
Jones, who more than once already had experienced this frolicsome disposition of the heathen goddess, was now again doomed to be tantalized in the like manner; for he arrived at the door of Mrs. Fitzpatrick about ten minutes after the departure of Sophia. He now addressed himself to the waiting-woman belonging to Mrs. Fitzpatrick, who told him the disagreeable news that the lady was gone, but could not tell him whither; and the same answer he afterwards received from Mrs. Fitzpatrick herself. For as that lady made no doubt but that Mr. Jones was a person detached from her uncle Western, in pursuit of his daughter, so she was too generous to betray her.
Though Jones had never seen Mrs. Fitzpatrick, yet he had heard that a cousin of Sophia was married to a gentleman of that name. This, however, in the present tumult of his mind, never once recurred to his memory; but when the footman, who had conducted him from his lordship's, acquainted him with the great intimacy between the ladies, and with their calling each other cousin, he then recollected the story of the marriage which he had formerly heard; and as he was presently convinced that this was the same woman, he became more surprized at the answer which he had received, and very earnestly desired leave to wait on the lady herself; but she positively refused him that honour.
Jones, who, though he had never seen a court, was better bred than most who frequent it, was incapable of any rude or abrupt behaviour to a lady. When he had received, therefore, a peremptory denial, he retired for the present, saying to the waiting-woman, "That if this was an improper hour to wait on her lady, he would return in the afternoon; and that he then hoped to have the honour of seeing her." The civility with which he uttered this, added to the great comeliness of his person, made an impression on the waiting-woman, and she could not help answering; "Perhaps, sir, you may;" and, indeed, she afterwards said everything to her mistress, which she thought most likely to prevail on her to admit a visit from the handsome young gentleman; for so she called him.
Jones very shrewdly suspected that Sophia herself was now with her cousin, and was denied to him; which he imputed to her resentment of what had happened at Upton. Having, therefore, dispatched Partridge to procure him lodgings, he remained all day in the street, watching the door where he thought his angel lay concealed; but no person did he see issue forth, except a servant of the house, and in the evening he returned to pay his visit to Mrs. Fitzpatrick, which that good lady at last condescended to admit.
There is a certain air of natural gentility, which it is neither in the power of dress to give, nor to conceal. Mr. Jones, as hath been before hinted, was possessed of this in a very eminent degree. He met, therefore, with a reception from the lady, somewhat different from what his apparel seemed to demand; and after he had paid her his proper respects, was desired to sit down.
The reader will not, I believe, be desirous of knowing all the particulars of this conversation, which ended very little to the satisfaction of poor Jones. For though Mrs. Fitzpatrick soon discovered the lover (as all women have the eyes of hawks in those matters), yet she still thought it was such a lover, as a generous friend of the lady should not betray her to. In short, she suspected this was the very Mr. Blifil, from whom Sophia had flown; and all the answers which she artfully drew from Jones, concerning Mr. Allworthy's family, confirmed her in this opinion. She therefore strictly denied any knowledge concerning the place whither Sophia was gone; nor could Jones obtain more than a permission to wait on her again the next evening.
When Jones was departed, Mrs. Fitzpatrick communicated her suspicion concerning Mr. Blifil to her maid; who answered, "Sure, madam, he is too pretty a man, in my opinion, for any woman in the world to run away from. I had rather fancy it is Mr. Jones."- "Mr. Jones!" said the lady, "what Jones?" For Sophia had not given the least hint of any such person in all their conversation; but Mrs. Honour had been much more communicative, and had acquainted her sister Abigail with the whole history of Jones, which this now again related to her mistress.
Mrs. Fitzpatrick no sooner received this information, than she immediately agreed with the opinion of her maid; and, what is very unaccountable, saw charms in the gallant, happy lover, which she had overlooked in the slighted squire. "Betty," says she, "you are certainly in the right: he is a very pretty fellow, and I don't wonder that my cousin's maid should tell you so many women are fond of him. I am sorry now I did not inform him where my cousin was; and yet, if he be so terrible a rake as you tell me, it is a pity she should ever see him any more; for what but her ruin can happen from marrying a rake and a beggar against her father's consent? I protest, if he be such a man as the wench described him to you, it is but an office of charity to keep her from him; and I am sure it would be unpardonable in me to do otherwise, who have tasted so bitterly of the misfortunes attending such marriages."
Here she was interrupted by the arrival of a visitor, which was no other than his lordship; and as nothing passed at this visit either new or extraordinary, or any ways material to this history, we shall here put an end to this chapter.
A project of Mrs. Fitzpatrick, and her visit to Lady BellastonWhen 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."
"Doth not your ladyship think," says Mrs. Fitzpatrick eagerly, "that it would be the best way to write immediately to my uncle, and acquaint him where my cousin is?"
The lady pondered a little upon this, and thus answered- "Why, 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."
"If he should find out her, madam," answered the other, "your ladyship may be assured he will leave nothing unattempted to come at her."
"But, madam," replied the lady, "it is impossible he should come here- though indeed it is possible he may get some intelligence where she is, and then may lurk about the house- I 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 ladyship's 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.
Which consists of visitingMr. Jones had walked within sight of a certain door during the whole day, which, though one of the shortest, appeared to him to be one of the longest in the whole year. At length, the clock having struck five, he returned to Mrs. Fitzpatrick, who, though it was a full hour earlier than the decent time of visiting, received him very civilly; but still persisted in her ignorance concerning Sophia.
Jones, in asking for his angel, had dropped the word cousin, upon which Mrs. Fitzpatrick said, "Then, sir, you know we are related: and, as we are, you will permit me the right of inquiring into the particulars of your business with my cousin." Here Jones hesitated a good while, and at last answered, "He had a considerable sum of money of hers in his hands, which he desired to deliver to her." He then produced the pocket-book, and acquainted Mrs. Fitzpatrick with the contents, and with the method in which they came into his hands. He had scarce finished his story, when a most violent noise shook the whole house. To attempt to describe this noise to those who have heard it would be in vain; and to aim at giving any idea of it to those who have never heard the like, would be still more vain: for it may be truly said-
Sic geminant Corybantes aera.
In short, a footman knocked, or rather thundered, at the door. Jones was a little surprized at the sound, having never heard it before; but Mrs. Fitzpatrick very calmly said, that, as some company were coming, she could not make him any answer now; but if he pleased to stay till they were gone, she intimated she had something to say to him.
The door of the room now flew open, and, after pushing in her hoop sideways before her; entered Lady Bellaston, who having first made a very low courtesy to Mrs. Fitzpatrick, and as low a one to Mr. Jones, was ushered to the upper end of the room.
We mention these minute matters for the sake of some country ladies of our acquaintance, who think it contrary to the rules of modesty to bend their knees to a man.
The company were hardly well settled, before the arrival of the peer lately mentioned, caused a fresh disturbance, and a repetition of ceremonials.
These being over, the conversation began to be (as the phrase is) extremely brilliant. However, as nothing past in it which can be thought material to this history, or, indeed, very material in itself, I shall omit the relation; the rather, as I have known some very fine polite conversation grow extremely dull, when transcribed into books, or repeated on the stage. Indeed, this mental repast is a dainty, of which those who are excluded from polite assemblies must be contented to remain as ignorant as they must of the several dainties of French cookery, which are served only at the tables of the great. To say the truth, as neither of these are adapted to every taste, they might both be of thrown away on the vulgar.
Poor Jones was rather a spectator of this elegant scene, than an actor in it; for though, in the short interval before the peer's arrival, Lady Bellaston first, and afterwards Mrs. Fitzpatrick, had addressed some of their discourse to him; yet no sooner was the noble lord entered, than he engrossed the whole attention of the two ladies to himself; and as he took no more notice of Jones than if no such person had been present, unless by now and then staring at him, the ladies followed his example.
The company had now staid so long, that Mrs. Fitzpatrick plainly perceived they all designed to stay out each other. She therefore resolved to rid herself of Jones, he being the visitant to whom she thought the least ceremony was due. Taking therefore an opportunity of a cessation of chat, she addressed herself gravely to him, and said, "Sir, I shall not possibly be able to give you an answer to-night as to that business; but if you please to leave word where I may send to you to-morrow—"
Jones had natural, but not artificial good-breeding. Instead, therefore, of communicating the secret of his lodgings to a servant, he acquainted the lady herself with it particularly, and soon after very ceremoniously withdrew.
He was no sooner gone, than the great personages, who had taken no notice of him present, began to take much notice of him in his absence; but if the reader hath already excused us from relating the more brilliant part of this conversation, he will surely be ready to excuse the repetition of what may be called vulgar abuse; though, perhaps, it may be material to our history to mention an observation of Lady Bellaston, who took her leave in a few minutes after him, and then said to Mrs. Fitzpatrick, at her departure, "I am satisfied on the account of my cousin; she can be in no danger from this fellow."
Our history shall follow the example of Lady Bellaston, and take leave of the present company, which was now reduced to two persons; between whom, as nothing passed, which in the least concerns us or our reader, we shall not suffer ourselves to be diverted by it from matters which must seem of more consequence to all those who are at all interested in the affairs of our heroe.
An adventure which happened to Mr. Jones at his lodgings, with some account of a young gentleman who lodged there, and of the mistress of the house, and her two daughtersThe next morning, as early as it was decent, Jones attended at Mrs. Fitzpatrick's door, where he was answered that the lady was not at home; an answer which surprized him the more, as he had walked backwards and forwards in the street from break of day; and if she had gone out, he must have seen her. This answer, however, he was obliged to receive, and not only now, but to five several visits which he made her that day.
To be plain with the reader, the noble peer had from some reason or other, perhaps from a regard for the lady's honour, insisted that she should not see Mr. Jones, whom he looked on as a scrub, any more; and the lady had complied in making that promise to which we now see her so strictly adhere.
But as our gentle reader may possibly have a better opinion of the young gentleman than her ladyship, and may even have some concern, should it be apprehended that, during this unhappy separation from Sophia, he took up his residence either at an inn, or in the street; we shall now give an account of his lodging, which was indeed in a very reputable house, and in a very good part of the town.
Mr. Jones, then, had often heard Mr. Allworthy mention the gentlewoman at whose house he used to lodge when he was in town. This person, who, as Jones likewise knew, lived in Bond-street, was the widow of a clergyman, and was left by him, at his decease, in possession of two daughters, and of a compleat set of manuscript sermons.
Of these two daughters, Nancy, the elder, was now arrived at the age of seventeen, and Betty, the younger, at that of ten.
Hither Jones had dispatched Partridge, and in this house he was provided with a room for himself in the second floor, and with one for Partridge in the fourth.
The first floor was inhabited by one of those young gentlemen, who, in the last age, were called men of wit and pleasure about town, and properly enough; for as men are usually denominated from their business or profession, so pleasure may be said to have been the only business or profession of those gentlemen to whom fortune had made all useful occupations unnecessary. Play-houses, coffee-houses, and taverns were the scenes of their rendezvous. Wit and humour were the entertainment of their looser hours, and love was the business of their more serious moments. Wine and the muses conspired to kindle the brightest flames in their breasts; nor did they only admire, but some were able to celebrate the beauty they admired, and all to judge of the merit of such compositions.
Such, therefore, were properly called the men of wit and pleasure; but I question whether the same appellation may, with the same propriety, be given to those young gentlemen of our times, who have the same ambition to be distinguished for parts. Wit certainly they have nothing to do with. To give them their due, they soar a step higher than their predecessors, and may be called men of wisdom and vertu (take heed you do not read virtue). Thus at an age when the gentlemen above mentioned employ their time in toasting the charms of a woman, or in making sonnets in her praise; in giving their opinion of a play at the theatre, or of a poem at Will's or Button's; these gentlemen are considering the methods to bribe a corporation, or meditating speeches for the House of Commons, or rather for the magazines. But the science of gaming is that which above all others employs their thoughts. These are the studies of their graver hours, while for their amusements they have the vast circle of connoisseurship, painting, music, statuary, and natural philosophy, or rather unnatural, which deals in the wonderful, and knows nothing of Nature, except her monsters and imperfections.
When Jones had spent the whole day in vain inquiries after Mrs. Fitzpatrick, he returned at last disconsolate to his apartment. Here, while he was venting his grief in private, he heard a violent uproar below-stairs; and soon after a female voice begged him for heaven's sake to come and prevent murder. Jones, who was never backward on any occasion to help the distressed, immediately ran downstairs; when stepping into the dining-room, whence all the noise issued, he beheld the young gentleman of wisdom and vertu just before mentioned, pinned close to the wall by his footman, and a young woman standing by, wringing her hands, and crying out, "He will be murdered! he will be murdered!" and, indeed, the poor gentleman seemed in some danger of being choaked, when Jones flew hastily to his assistance, and rescued him, just as he was breathing his last, from the unmerciful clutches of the enemy.
Though the fellow had received several kicks and cuffs from the little gentleman, who had more spirit than strength, he had made it a kind of scruple of conscience to strike his master, and would have contented himself with only choaking him; but towards Jones he bore no such respect: he no sooner therefore found himself a little roughly handled by his new antagonist, than he gave him one of those punches in the guts which, though the spectators at Broughton's amphitheatre have such exquisite delight in seeing them, convey but very little pleasure in the feeling.
The lusty youth had no sooner received this blow, than he meditated a most grateful return; and now ensued a combat between Jones and the footman, which was very fierce, but short; for this fellow was no more able to contend with Jones than his master had before been to contend with him.
And now, Fortune, according to her usual custom, reversed the face of affairs. The former victor lay breathless on the ground, and the vanquished gentleman had recovered breath enough to thank Mr. Jones for his seasonable assistance; he received likewise the hearty thanks of the young woman present, who was indeed no other than Miss Nancy, the eldest daughter of the house.
The footman, having now recovered his legs, shook his head at Jones, and, with a sagacious look, cried- "O d—n me, I'll have nothing more to do with you; you have been upon the stage, or I'm d—nably mistaken." And indeed we may forgive this his suspicion; for such was the agility and strength of our heroe, that he was, perhaps, a match for one of the first-rate boxers, and could, with great ease, have beaten all the muffled* graduates of Mr. Broughton's school.
And now the young gentleman, whose name was Nightingale, very strenuously insisted that his deliverer should take part of a bottle of wine with him; to which Jones, after much entreaty, consented, though more out of complacence than inclination; for the uneasiness of his mind fitted him very little for conversation at this time. Miss Nancy likewise, who was the only female then in the house, her mamma and sister being both gone to the play, condescended to favour them with her company.
When the bottle and glasses were on the table, the gentleman began to relate the occasion of the preceding disturbance.
"I hope, sir," said he to Jones, "you will not from this accident conclude, that I make a custom of striking my servants, for I assure you this is the first time I have been guilty of it in my remembrance, and I have passed by many provoking faults in this very fellow, before he could provoke me to it; but when you hear what hath happened this evening, you will, I believe, think me excusable. I happened to come home several hours before my usual time, when I found four gentlemen of the cloth at whist by my fire;- and my Hoyle, sir- my best Hoyle, which cost me a guinea, lying open on the table, with a quantity of porter spilt on one of the most material leaves of the whole book. This, you will allow, was provoking; but I said nothing till the rest of the honest company were gone, and then gave the fellow a gentle rebuke, who, instead of expressing any concern, made me a pert answer, 'That servants must have their diversions as well as other people; that he was sorry for the accident which had happened to the book, but that several of his acquaintance had bought the same for a shilling, and that I might stop as much in his wages, if I pleased.' I now gave him a severer reprimand than before, when the rascal had the insolence to— In short, he imputed my early coming home to— In short, he cast a reflection— He mentioned the name of a young lady, in a manner- in such a manner that incensed me beyond all patience, and, in my passion, I struck him."
Jones answered, "That he believed no person living would blame him; for my part," said he, "I confess I should, on the last-mentioned provocation, have done the same thing."
Our company had not sat long before they were joined by the mother and daughter, at their return from the play. And now they all spent a very chearful evening together; for all but Jones were heartily merry, and even he put on as much constrained mirth as possible. indeed, half his natural flow of animal spirits, joined to the sweetness of his temper, was sufficient to make a most amiable companion; and notwithstanding the heaviness of his heart, so agreeable did he make himself on the present occasion, that, at their breaking up, the young gentleman earnestly desired his further acquaintance. Miss Nancy was well pleased with him; and the widow, quite charmed with her new lodger, invited him, with the other, next morning to breakfast.
Jones on his part was no less satisfied. As for Miss Nancy, though a very little creature, she was extremely pretty, and the widow had all the charms which can adorn a woman near fifty. As she was one of the most innocent creatures in the world, so she was one of the most chearful. She never thought, nor spoke, nor wished any ill, and had constantly that desire of pleasing, which may be called the happiest of all desires in this, that it scarce ever fails of attaining its ends, when not disgraced by affectation. In short, though her power was very small, she was in her heart one of the warmest friends. She had been a most affectionate wife, and was a most fond and tender mother. As our history doth not, like a newspaper, give great characters to people who never were heard of before, nor will ever be heard of again, the reader may hence conclude, that this excellent woman will hereafter appear to be of some importance in our history.
Nor was Jones a little pleased with the young gentleman himself, whose wine he had been drinking. He thought he discerned in him much good sense, though a little too much tainted with town-foppery; but what recommended him most to Jones were some sentiments of great generosity and humanity, which occasionally dropt from him; and particularly many expressions of the highest disinterestedness in the affair of love. On which subject the young gentleman delivered himself in a language which might have very well become an Arcadian shepherd of old, and which appeared very extraordinary when proceeding from the lips of a modern fine gentleman; but he was only one by imitation, and meant by nature for a much better character.
What arrived while the company were at breakfast, with some hints concerning the government of daughtersOur company brought together in the morning the same good inclinations towards each other, with which they had separated the evening before; but poor Jones was extremely disconsolate; for he had just received information from Partridge, that Mrs. Fitzpatrick had left her lodging, and that he could not learn whither she was gone. This news highly afflicted him, and his countenance, as well as his behaviour, in defiance of all his endeavours to the contrary, betrayed manifest indications of a disordered mind.
The discourse turned at present, as before, on love; and Mr. Nightingale again expressed many of those warm, generous, and disinterested sentiments upon this subject, which wise and sober men call romantic, but which wise and sober women generally regard in a better light. Mrs. Miller (for so the mistress of the house was called) greatly approved these sentiments; but when the young gentleman appealed to Miss Nancy, she answered only, "That she believed the gentleman who had spoke the least was capable of feeling most."
This compliment was so apparently directed to Jones, that we should have been sorry had he passed it by unregarded. He made her indeed a very polite answer, and concluded with an oblique hint, that her own silence subjected to a suspicion of the same kind: for indeed she had scarce opened her lips either now or the last evening.
"I am glad, Nanny," says Mrs. Miller, "the gentleman hath made the observation; I protest I am almost of his opinion. What can be the matter with you, child? I never saw such an alteration. What is become of all your gaiety? Would you think, sir, I used to call her my little pratler? She hath not spoke twenty words this week."
Here their conversation was interrupted by the entrance of a maid-servant, who brought a bundle in her hand, which, she said, "was delivered by a porter for Mr. Jones." She added, "That the man immediately went away, saying, it required no answer."
Jones expressed some surprize on this occasion, and declared it must be some mistake; but the maid persisting that she was certain of the name, all the women were desirous of having the bundle immediately opened; which operation was at length performed by little Betsy, with the consent of Mr. Jones: and the contents were found to be a domino, a mask, and a masquerade ticket.
Jones was now more positive than ever in asserting, that these things must have been delivered by mistake; and Mrs. Miller herself expressed some doubt, and said, "She knew not what to think." But when Mr. Nightingale was asked, he delivered a very different opinion. "All I can conclude from it, sir," said he, "is, that you are a very happy man; for I make no doubt but these were sent you by some lady whom you will have the happiness of meeting at the masquerade."
Jones had not a sufficient degree of vanity to entertain any such flattering imagination; nor did Mrs. Miller herself give much assent to what Mr. Nightingale had said, till Miss Nancy having lifted up the domino, a card dropt from the sleeve; in which was written as follows:-
The queen of the fairies sends you this;
Use her favours not amiss.
Reader, if thou hast any good wishes towards me, I will fully repay them by wishing thee to be possessed of this sanguine disposition of mind; since, after having read much and considered long on that subject of happiness which hath employed so many great pens, I am almost inclined to fix it in the possession of this temper; which puts us, in a manner, out of the reach of Fortune, and makes us happy without her assistance. Indeed, the sensations of pleasure it gives are much more constant, as well as much keener, than those which that blind lady bestows; nature having wisely contrived, that some satiety and languor should be annexed to all our real enjoyments, lest we should be so taken up by them, as to be stopt from further pursuits. I make no manner of doubt but that, in this light, we may see the imaginary future chancellor just called to the bar, the archbishop in crape, and the prime minister at the tail of an opposition, more truly happy than those who are invested with all the power and profit of those respective offices.
Mr. Jones having now determined to go to the masquerade that evening, Mr. Nightingale offered to conduct him thither. The young gentleman, at the same time, offered tickets to Miss Nancy and her mother; but the good woman would not accept them. She said, "she did not conceive the harm which some people imagined in a masquerade; but that such extravagant diversions were proper only for persons of quality and fortune, and not for young women who were to get their living, and could, at best, hope to be married to a good tradesman."— "A tradesman!" cries Nightingale, you shan't undervalue my Nancy. There is not a nobleman upon earth above her merit." "O fie! Mr. Nightingale," answered Mrs. Miller, "you must not fill the girl's head with such fancies: but if it was her good luck" (says the mother with a simper) "to find a gentleman of your generous way of thinking, I hope she would make a better return to his generosity than to give her mind up to extravagant pleasures. Indeed, where young ladies bring great fortunes themselves, they have some right to insist on spending what is their own; and on that account I have heard the gentlemen say, a man has sometimes a better bargain with a poor wife, than with a rich one.— But let my daughters marry whom they will, I shall endeavour to make them blessings to their husbands:— I beg, therefore, I may hear of no more masquerades. Nancy is, I am certain, too good a girl to desire to go; for she must remember when you carried her thither last year, it almost turned her head; and she did not return to herself, or to her needle, in a month afterwards."
Though a gentle sigh, which stole from the bosom of Nancy, seemed to argue some secret disapprobation of these sentiments, she did not dare openly to oppose them. For as this good woman had all the tenderness, so she had preserved all the authority of a parent; and as her indulgence to the desires of her children was restrained only by her fears for their safety and future welfare, so she never suffered those commands which proceeded from such fears to be either disobeyed or disputed. And this the young gentleman, who had lodged two years in the house, knew so well, that he presently acquiesced in the refusal.
Mr. Nightingale, who grew every minute fonder of Jones, was very desirous of his company that day to dinner at the tavern, where he offered to introduce him to some of his acquaintance; but Jones begged to be excused, "as his cloaths," he said, "were not yet come to town."
To confess the truth, Mr. Jones was now in a situation, which sometimes happens to be the case of young gentlemen of much better figure than himself. In short, he had not one penny in his pocket; a situation in much greater credit among the antient philosophers, than among the modern wise men who live in Lombard-street, or those who frequent White's chocolate-house. And, perhaps, the great honours which those philosophers have ascribed to an empty pocket, may be one of the reasons of that high contempt in which they are held in the aforesaid street and chocolate-house.
Now if the antient opinion, that men might live very comfortably on virtue only, be, as the modern wise men just above-mentioned pretend to have discovered, a notorious error; no less false is, I apprehend, that position of some writers of romance, that a man can live altogether on love: for however delicious repasts this may afford to some of our senses or appetites, it is most certain it can afford none to others. Those, therefore, who have placed too great a confidence in such writers, have experienced their error when it was too late; and have found that love was no more capable of allaying hunger, than a rose is capable of delighting the ear, or a violin of gratifying the smell.
Notwithstanding, therefore, all the delicacies which love had set before him, namely, the hopes of seeing Sophia at the masquerade; on which, however ill-founded his imagination might be, he had voluptuously feasted during the whole day, the evening no sooner came, than Mr. Jones began to languish for some food of a grosser kind. Partridge discovered this by intuition, and took the occasion to give some oblique hints concerning the bankbill; and, when these were rejected with disdain, he collected courage enough once more to mention a return to Mr. Allworthy.
"Partridge," cries Jones, "you cannot see my fortune in a more desperate light than I see it myself; and I begin heartily to repent that I suffered you to leave a place where you was settled, and to follow me. However, I insist now on your returning home; and for the expense and trouble which you have so kindly put yourself to on my account, all the cloaths I left behind in your care I desire you would take as your own. I am sorry I can make you no other acknowledgment."
He spoke these words with so pathetic an accent, that Partridge, among whose vices ill-nature or hardness of heart were not numbered, burst into tears; and after swearing he would not quit him in his distress, he began with the most earnest entreaties to urge his return home. "For heaven's sake, sir," says he, "do but consider; what can your honour do?- how is it possible you can live in this town without money? Do what you will, sir, or go wherever you please, I am resolved not to desert you. But pray, sir, consider- do pray, sir, for your own sake, take it into your consideration; and I'm sure," says he, "that your own good sense will bid you return home." "How often shall I tell thee," answered Jones, "that I have no home to return to? Had I any hopes that Mr. Allworthy's doors would be open to receive me, I want no distress to urge me- nay, there is no other cause upon earth, which could detain me a moment from flying to his presence; but, alas! that I am for ever banished from. His last words were- O, Partridge, they still ring in my ears- his last words were, when he gave me a sum of money- what it was I know not, but considerable I'm sure it was- his last words were- 'I am resolved from this day forward, on no account, to converse with you any more.'
Here passion stopt the mouth of Jones, as surprize for a moment did that of Partridge; but he soon recovered the use of speech, and after a short preface, in which he declared he had no inquisitiveness in his temper, inquired what Jones meant by a considerable sum- he knew not how much- and what was become of the money.
In both these points he now received full satisfaction; on which he was proceeding to comment, when he was interrupted by a message from Mr. Nightingale, who desired his master's company in his apartment.
When the two gentlemen were both attired for the masquerade, and Mr. Nightingale had given orders for chairs to be sent for, a circumstance of distress occurred to Jones, which will appear very ridiculous to many of my readers. This was how to procure a shilling; but if such readers will reflect a little on what they have themselves felt from the want of a thousand pounds, or, perhaps, of ten or twenty, to execute a favourite scheme, they will have a perfect idea of what Mr. Jones felt on this occasion. For this sum, therefore, he applied to Partridge, which was the first he had permitted him to advance, and was the last he intended that poor fellow should advance in his service. To say the truth, Partridge had lately made no offer of this kind. Whether it was that he desired to see the bank-bill broke in upon, or that distress should prevail on Jones to return home, or from what other motive it proceeded, I will not determine.
Containing the whole humours of a masqueradeOur cavaliers now arrived at that temple, where Heydegger, the great Arbiter Deliciarum, the great high-priest of pleasure, presides; and, like other heathen priests, imposes on his votaries by the pretended presence of the deity, when in reality no such deity is there.
Mr. Nightingale, having taken a turn or two with his companion, soon left him, and walked off with a female, saying, "Now you are here, sir, you must beat about for your own game."
Jones began to entertain strong hopes that his Sophia was present; and these hopes gave him more spirits than the lights, the music, and the company; though these are pretty strong antidotes against the spleen. He now accosted every woman he saw, whose stature, shape, or air, bore any resemblance to his angel. To all of whom he endeavoured to say something smart, in order to engage an answer, by which he might discover that voice which he thought it impossible he should mistake. Some of these answered by a question, in a squeaking voice, Do you know me? Much the greater number said, I don't know you, sir, and nothing more. Some called him an impertinent fellow; some made him no answer at all; some said, Indeed I don't know your voice, and I shall have nothing to say to you; and many gave him as kind answers as he could wish, but not in the voice he desired to hear.
Whilst he was talking with one of these last (who was in the habit of a shepherdess) a lady in a domino came up to him, and slapping him on the shoulder, whispered him, at the same time, in the ear, "If you talk any longer with that trollop, I will acquaint Miss Western."
Jones no sooner heard that name, than, immediately quitting his former companion, he applied to the domino, begging and entreating her to show him the lady she had mentioned, if she was then in the room.
The mask walked hastily to the upper end of the innermost apartment before she spoke; and then, instead of answering him, sat down, and declared she was tired. Jones sat down by her, and still persisted in his entreaties: at last the lady coldly answered, "I imagined Mr. Jones had been a more discerning lover, than to suffer any disguise to conceal his mistress from him." "Is she here, then, madam?" replied Jones, with some vehemence. Upon which the lady cries- "Hush, sir, you will be observed. I promise you, upon my honour, Miss Western is not here."
Jones, now taking the mask by the hand, fell to entreating her in the most earnest manner, to acquaint him where he might find Sophia: and when he could obtain no direct answer, he began to upbraid her gently for having disappointed him the day before; and concluded, saying, "Indeed, my good fairy queen, I know your majesty very well, notwithstanding the affected disguise of your voice. Indeed, Mrs. Fitzpatrick, it is a little cruel to divert yourself at the expense of my torments."
The mask answered, "Though you have so ingeniously discovered me, I must still speak in the same voice, lest I should be known by others. And do you think, good sir, that I have no greater regard for my cousin, than to assist in carrying on an affair between you two, which must end in her ruin, as well as your own? Besides, I promise you, my cousin is not mad enough to consent to her own destruction, if you are so much her enemy as to tempt her to it."
"Alas, madam!" said Jones, "you little know my heart, when you call me an enemy of Sophia."
"And yet to ruin any one," cries the other, "you will allow, is the act of an enemy; and when by the same act you must knowingly and certainly bring ruin on yourself, is it not folly or madness, as well as guilt? Now, sir, my cousin hath very little more than her father will please to give her; very little for one of her fashion- you know him, and you know your own situation."
Jones vowed he had no such design on Sophia, "That he would rather suffer the most violent of deaths than sacrifice her interest to his desires." He said, "he knew how unworthy he was of her, every way, that he had long ago resolved to quit all such aspiring thoughts, but that some strange accidents had made him desirous to see her once more, when he promised he would take leave of her for ever. No, madam," concluded he, "my love is not of that base kind which seeks its own satisfaction at the expense of what is most dear to its object. I would sacrifice everything to the possession of my Sophia, but Sophia herself."
Though the reader may have already conceived no very sublime idea of the virtue of the lady in the mask; and though possibly she may hereafter appear not to deserve one of the first characters of her sex; yet, it is certain, these generous sentiments made a strong impression upon her, and greatly added to the affection she had before conceived for our young heroe.
The lady now, after a silence of a few moments, said, "She did not see his pretensions to Sophia so much in the light of presumption, as of imprudence. Young fellows," says she, can never have too aspiring thoughts. I love ambition in a young man, and I would have you cultivate it as much as possible. Perhaps you may succeed with those who are infinitely superior in fortune; nay, I am convinced there are women— but don't you think me a strange creature, Mr. Jones, to be thus giving advice to a man with whom I am so little acquainted, and one with whose behaviour to me I have so little reason to be pleased?"
Here Jones began to apologize, and to hope he had not offended in anything he had said of her cousin.- To which the mask answered, "And are you so little versed in the sex, to imagine you can well affront a lady more than by entertaining her with your passion for another woman? If the fairy queen had conceived no better opinion of your gallantry, she would scarce have appointed you to meet her at the masquerade."
Jones had never less inclination to an amour than at present; but gallantry to the ladies was among his principles of honour; and he held it as much incumbent on him to accept a challenge to love, as if it had been a challenge to fight. Nay, his very love to Sophia made it necessary for him to keep well with the lady, as he made no doubt but she was capable of bringing him into the presence of the other.
He began therefore to make a very warm answer to her last speech, when a mask, in the character of an old woman, joined them. This mask was one of those ladies who go to a masquerade only to vent ill-nature, by telling people rude truths, and by endeavouring, as the phrase is, to spoil as much sport as they are able. This good lady, therefore, having observed Jones, and his friend, whom she well knew, in close consultation together in a corner of the room, concluded she could nowhere satisfy her spleen better than by interrupting them. She attacked them, therefore, and soon drove them from their retirement; nor was she contented with this, but pursued them to every place which they shifted to avoid her; till Mr. Nightingale, seeing the distress of his friend, at last relieved him, and engaged the old woman in another pursuit.
While Jones and his mask were walking together about the room, to rid themselves of the teazer, he observed his lady speak to several masks, with the same freedom of acquaintance as if they had been barefaced. He could not help expressing his surprize at this; saying, "Sure, madam, you must have infinite discernment, to know people in all disguises." To which the lady answered, "You cannot conceive anything more insipid and childish than a masquerade to the people of fashion, who in general know one another as well here, as when they meet in an assembly or a drawing-room; nor will any woman of condition converse with a person with whom she is not acquainted. In short, the generality of persons whom you see here, may more properly be said to kill time in this place than in any other; and generally retire from hence more tired than from the longest sermon. To say the truth, I begin to be in that situation myself; and if I have any faculty at guessing, you are not much better pleased. I protest it would be almost charity in me to go home for your sake." "I know but one charity equal to it," cries Jones, "and that is to suffer me to wait on you home." "Sure," answered the lady, "you have a strange opinion of me, to imagine, that upon such an acquaintance, I would let you into my doors at this time of night. I fancy you impute the friendship I have shown my cousin to some other motive. Confess honestly; don't you consider this contrived interview as little better than a downright assignation? Are you used, Mr. Jones, to make these sudden conquests?" "I am not used, madam," said Jones, "to submit to such sudden conquests; but as you have taken my heart by surprize, the rest of my body hath a right to follow; so you must pardon me if I resolve to attend you wherever you go." He accompanied these words with some proper actions; upon which the lady, after a gentle rebuke, and saying their familiarity would be observed, told him, "She was going to sup with an acquaintance, whither she hoped he would not follow her; for if you should," said she, "I shall be thought an unaccountable creature, though my friend indeed is not censorious: yet I hope you won't follow me; I protest I shall not know what to say if you do."
The lady presently after quitted the masquerade, and Jones, notwithstanding the severe prohibition he had received, presumed to attend her. He was now reduced to the same dilemma we have mentioned before, namely, the want of a shilling, and could not relieve it by borrowing as before. He therefore walked boldly on after the chair in which his lady rode, pursued by a grand huzza, from all the chairmen present, who wisely take the best care they can to discountenance all walking afoot by their betters. Luckily, however, the gentry who attend at the Opera-house were too busy to quit their stations, and as the lateness of the hour prevented him from meeting many of their brethren in the street, he proceeded without molestation, in a dress, which, at another season, would have certainly raised a mob at his heels.
The lady was set down in a street not far from Hanover-square, where the door being presently opened, she was carried in, and the gentleman, without any ceremony, walked in after her.
Jones and his companion were now together in a very well-furnished and well-warmed room; when the female, still speaking in her masquerade voice, said she was surprized at her friend, who must absolutely have forgot her appointment; at which, after venting much resentment, she suddenly exprest some apprehension from Jones, and asked him what the world would think of their having been alone together in a house at that time of night? But instead of a direct answer to so important a question, Jones began to be very importunate with the lady to unmask; and at length having prevailed, there appeared, not Mrs. Fitzpatrick, but the Lady Bellaston herself.
It would be tedious to give the particular conversation, which consisted of very common and ordinary occurrences, and which lasted from two till six o'clock in the morning. It is sufficient to mention all of it that is anywise material to this history. And this was a promise that the lady would endeavour to find out Sophia, and in a few days bring him to an interview with her, on condition that he would then take his leave of her. When this was thoroughly settled, and a second meeting in the evening appointed at the same place, they separated; the lady returned to her house, and Jones to his lodgings.
Containing a scene of distress, which will appear very extraordinary to most of our readersJones having refreshed himself with a few hours' sleep, summoned Partridge to his presence; and delivering him a bank-note of fifty pounds, ordered him to go and change it. Partridge received this with sparkling eyes, though, when he came to reflect farther, it raised in him some suspicions not very advantageous to the honour of his master: to these the dreadful idea he had of the masquerade, the disguise in which his master had gone out and returned, and his having been abroad all night, contributed. In plain language, the only way he could possibly find to account for the possession of this note, was by robbery: and, to confess the truth, the reader, unless he should suspect it was owing to the generosity of Lady Bellaston, can hardly imagine any other.
To clear, therefore, the honour of Mr. Jones, and to do justice to the liberality of the lady, he had really received this present from her, who, though she did not give much into the hackney charities of the age, such as building hospitals, &c., was not, however, entirely void of that Christian virtue; and conceived (very rightly I think) that a young fellow of merit, without a shilling in the world, was no improper object of this virtue.
Mr. Jones and Mr. Nightingale had been invited to dine this day with Mrs. Miller. At the appointed hour, therefore, the two young gentlemen, with the two girls, attended in the parlour, where they waited from three till almost five before the good woman appeared. She had been out of town to visit a relation, of whom, at her return, she gave the following account.
"I hope, gentlemen, you will pardon my making you wait; I am sure if you knew the occasion- I have been to see a cousin of mine, about six miles off, who now lies in.- It should be a warning to all persons (says she, looking at her daughters) how they marry indiscreetly. There is no happiness in this world without a competency. O Nancy! how shall I describe the wretched condition in which I found your poor cousin? she hath scarce lain in a week, and there was she, this dreadful weather, in a cold room, without any curtains to her bed, and not a bushel of coals in her house to supply her with fire: her second son, that sweet little fellow, lies ill of a quinzy in the same bed with his mother; for there is no other bed in the house. Poor little Tommy! I believe, Nancy, you will never see your favourite any more; for he is really very ill. The rest of the children are in pretty good health: but Molly, I am afraid, will do herself an injury: she is but thirteen years old, Mr. Nightingale, and yet, in my life, I never saw a better nurse: she tends both her mother and her brother; and, what is wonderful in a creature so young, she shows all the chearfulness in the world to her mother; and yet I saw her- I saw the poor child, Mr. Nightingale, turn about, and privately wipe the tears from her eyes." Here Mrs. Miller was prevented, by her own tears, from going on, and there was not, I believe, a person present who did not accompany her in them; at length she a little recovered herself, and proceeded thus: "In all this distress the mother supports her spirits in a surprizing manner. The danger of her son sits heaviest upon her, and yet she endeavours as much as possible to conceal even this concern, on her husband's account. Her grief, however, sometimes gets the better of all her endeavours; for she was always extravagantly fond of this boy, and a most sensible, sweet-tempered creature it is. I protest I was never more affected in my life, than when I heard the little wretch, who is hardly yet seven years old, while his mother was wetting him with her tears, beg her to be comforted. 'Indeed, mamma,' cried the child, 'I shan't die; God Almighty, I'm sure, won't take Tommy away; let heaven be ever so fine a place, I had rather stay here and starve with you and my papa, than go to it.' Pardon me, gentlemen, I can't help it" (says she, wiping her eyes), "such sensibility and affection in a child.- And yet, perhaps, he is least the object of pity; for a day or two will, most probably, place him beyond the reach of all human evils. The father is, indeed, most worthy of compassion. Poor man, his countenance is the very picture of horror, and he looks like one rather dead than alive. Oh heavens! what a scene did I behold at my first coming into the room! The good creature was lying behind the bolster, supporting at once both his child and his wife. He had nothing on but a thin waistcoat; for his coat was spread over the bed, to supply the want of blankets.- When he rose up at my entrance, I scarce knew him. As comely a man, Mr. Jones, within this fortnight, as you ever beheld; Mr. Nightingale hath seen him. His eyes sunk, his face pale, with a long beard. His body shivering with cold, and worn with hunger too; for my cousin says she can hardly prevail upon him to eat.- He told me himself in a whisper- he told me- I can't repeat it- he said he could not bear to eat the bread his children wanted. And yet, can you believe it, gentlemen? in all this misery his wife has as good caudle as if she lay in the midst of the greatest affluence; I tasted it, and I scarce ever tasted better.- The means of procuring her this, he said, he believed was sent by an angel from heaven. I know not what he meant; for I had not spirits enough to ask a single question.
"This was a love-match, as they call it, on both sides; that is, a match between two beggars. I must, indeed, say, I never saw a fonder Tom Jones couple; but what is their fondness good for, but to torment each other?" "Indeed, mamma," cries Nancy, "I have always looked on my cousin Anderson" (for that was her name) "as one of the happiest of women." "I am sure," says Mrs. Miller, "the case at present is much otherwise; for any one might have discerned that the tender consideration of each other's sufferings makes the most intolerable part of their calamity, both to the husband and wife. Compared to which, hunger and cold, as they affect their own persons only, are scarce evils. Nay, the very children, the youngest, which is not two years old, excepted, feel in the same manner; for they are a most loving family, and, if they had but a bare competency, would be the happiest people in the world." "I never saw the least sign of misery at her house," replied Nancy; "I am sure my heart bleeds for what you now tell me."- "O child," answered the mother, "she hath always endeavoured to make the best of everything. They have always been in great distress; but, indeed, this absolute ruin hath been brought upon them by others. The poor man was bail for the villain his brother; and about a week ago, the very day before her lying-in, their goods were all carried away, and sold by an execution. He sent a letter to me of it by one of the bailiffs, which the villain never delivered.- What must he think of my suffering a week to pass before he heard of me?"
It was not with dry eyes that Jones heard this narrative; when it was ended he took Mrs. Miller apart with him into another room, and, delivering her his purse, in which was the sum of £50, desired her to send as much of it as she thought proper to these poor people. The look which Mrs. Miller gave Jones, on this occasion, is not easy to be described. She burst into a kind of agony of transport, and cryed out- "Good heavens! is there such a man in the world?"- But recollecting herself, she said, "Indeed I know one such; but can there be another?" "I hope, madam," cries Jones, "there are many who have common humanity; for to relieve such distress in our fellow-creatures, can hardly be called more." Mrs. Miller then took ten guineas, which were the utmost he could prevail with her to accept, and said, "She would find some means of conveying them early the next morning;" adding, "that she had herself done some little matter for the poor people, and had not left them in quite so much misery as she found them."
They then returned to the parlour, where Nightingale expressed much concern at the dreadful situation of these wretches, whom indeed he knew; for he had seen them more than once at Mrs. Miller's. He inveighed against the folly of making oneself liable for the debts of others; vented many bitter execrations against the brother; and concluded with wishing something could be done for the unfortunate family. "Suppose, madam," said he, "you should recommend them to Mr. Allworthy? Or what think you of a collection? I will give them a guinea with all my heart."
Mrs. Miller made no answer; and Nancy, to whom her mother had whispered the generosity of Jones, turned pale upon the occasion; though, if either of them was angry with Nightingale, it was surely without reason. For the liberality of Jones, if he had known it, was not an example which he had any obligation to follow, and there are thousands who would not have contributed a single halfpenny, as indeed he did not in effect, for he made no tender of anything; and therefore, as the others thought proper to make no demand, he kept his money in his pocket.
I have, in truth, observed, and shall never have a better opportunity than at present to communicate my observation, that the world are in general divided into two opinions concerning charity, which are the very reverse of each other. One party seems to hold, that all acts of this kind are to be esteemed as voluntary gifts, and, however little you give (if indeed no more than your good wishes), you acquire a great degree of merit in so doing. Others, on the contrary, appear to be as firmly persuaded that beneficence is a positive duty, and that whenever the rich fall greatly short of their ability in relieving the distresses of the poor, their pitiful largesses are so far from being meritorious, that they have only performed their duty by halves, and are in some sense more contemptible than those who have entirely neglected it.
To reconcile these different opinions is not in my power. I shall only add, that the givers are generally of the former sentiment, and the receivers are almost universally inclined to the latter.
Which treats of matters of a very different kind from those in the preceding chapterIn the evening Jones met his lady again, and a long conversation again ensued between them: but as it consisted only of the same ordinary occurrences as before, we shall avoid mentioning particulars, which we despair of rendering agreeable to the reader; unless he is one whose devotion to the fair sex, like that of the papists to their saints, wants to be raised by the help of pictures. But I am so far from desiring to exhibit such pictures to the public, that I would wish to draw a curtain over those that have been lately set forth in certain French novels; very bungling copies of which have been presented us here under the name of translations.
Jones grew still more and more impatient to see Sophia; and finding, after repeated interviews with Lady Bellaston, no likelihood of obtaining this by her means (for, on the contrary, the lady began to treat even the mention of the name of Sophia with resentment), he resolved to try some other method. He made no doubt but that Lady Bellaston knew where his angel was, so he thought it most likely that some of her servants should be acquainted with the same secret. Partridge therefore was employed to get acquainted with those servants, in order to fish this secret out of them.
Few situations can be imagined more uneasy than that to which his poor master was at present reduced; for besides the difficulties he met with in discovering Sophia, besides the fears he had of having disobliged her, and the assurances he had received from Lady Bellaston of the resolution which Sophia had taken against him, and of her having purposely concealed herself from him, which he had sufficient reason to believe might be true; he had still a difficulty to combat, which it was not in the power of his mistress to remove, however kind her inclination might have been. This was the exposing of her to be disinherited of all her father's estate, the almost inevitable consequence of their coming together without a consent, which he had no hopes of ever obtaining.
Add to all these the many obligations which Lady Bellaston, whose violent fondness we can no longer conceal, had heaped upon him; so that by her means he was now become one of the best-dressed men about town; and was not only relieved from those ridiculous distresses we have before mentioned, but was actually raised to a state of affluence beyond what he had ever known.
Now, though there are many gentlemen who very well reconcile it to their consciences to possess themselves of the whole fortune of a woman, without making her any kind of return; yet to a mind, the proprietor of which doth not deserved to be hanged, nothing is, I believe, more irksome than to support love with gratitude only; especially where inclination pulls the heart a contrary way. Such was the unhappy case of Jones; for though the virtuous love he bore to Sophia, and which left very little affection for any other woman, had been entirely out of the question, he could never have been able to have made any adequate return to the generous passion of this lady, who had indeed been once an object of desire, but was now entered at least into the autumn of life, though she wore all the gaiety of youth, both in her dress and manner; nay, she contrived still to maintain the roses in her cheeks; but these, like flowers forced out of season by art, had none of that lively blooming freshness with which Nature, at the proper time, bedecks her own productions. She had, besides, a certain imperfection, which renders some flowers, though very beautiful to the eye, very improper to be placed in a wilderness of sweets, and what above all others is most disagreeable to the breath of love.
Though Jones saw all these discouragements on the one side, he felt his obligations full as strongly on the other; nor did he less plainly discern the ardent passion whence those obligations proceeded, the extreme violence of which if he failed to equal, he well knew the lady would think him ungrateful; and, what is worse, he would have thought himself so. He knew the tacit consideration upon which all her favours were conferred; and as his necessity obliged him to accept them, so his honour, he concluded, forced him to pay the price. This therefore he resolved to do, whatever misery it cost him, and to devote himself to her, from that great principle of justice, by which the laws of some countries oblige a debtor, who is no otherwise capable of discharging his debt, to become the slave of his creditor.
While he was meditating on these matters, he received the following note from the lady:-
If you should accidentally be a few moments before me, bid them show you into the drawing-room.
To confess the truth, Jones was less pleased with this last epistle than he had been with the former, as he was prevented by it from complying with the earnest entreaties of Mr. Nightingale, with whom he had now contracted much intimacy and friendship. These entreaties were to go with that young gentleman and his company to a new play, which was to be acted that evening, and which a very large party had agreed to damn, from some dislike they had taken to the author, who was a friend to one of Mr. Nightingale's acquaintance. And this sort of fun, our heroe, we are ashamed to confess, would willingly have preferred to the above kind appointment; but his honour got the better of his inclination.
Before we attend him to this intended interview with the lady, we think proper to account for both the preceding notes, as the reader may possibly be not a little surprized at the imprudence of Lady Bellaston, in bringing her lover to the very house where her rival was lodged.
First, then, the mistress of the house where these lovers had hitherto met, and who had been for some years a pensioner to that lady, was now become a methodist, and had that very morning waited upon her ladyship, and after rebuking her very severely for her past life, had positively declared that she would, on no account, be instrumental in carrying on any of her affairs for the future.
The hurry of spirits into which this accident threw the lady, made her despair of possibly finding any other convenience to meet Jones that evening; bit as she began a little to recover from her uneasiness at the disappointment, she set her thoughts to work, when luckily it came into her head to propose to Sophia to go to the play, which was immediately consented to, and a proper lady provided for her companion. Mrs. Honour was likewise despatched with Mrs. Etoff on the same errand of pleasure; and thus her own house was left free for the safe reception of Mr. Jones, with whom she promised herself two or three hours of uninterrupted conversation, after her return from the place where she dined, which was at a friend's house in a pretty distant part of the town, near her old place of assignation, where she had engaged herself before she was well apprized of the revolution that had happened in the mind and morals of her late confidante.
A chapter which, though short, may draw tears from some eyesMr. Jones was just dressed to wait on Lady Bellaston, when Mrs. Miller rapped at his door; and, being admitted, very earnestly desired his company below-stairs, to drink tea in the parlour.
Upon his entrance into the room, she presently introduced a person to him, saying, "This, sir, is my cousin, who hath been so greatly beholden to your goodness, for which he begs to return you his sincerest thanks."
The man had scarce entered upon that speech, which Mrs. Miller had so kindly prefaced, when both Jones and he, looking stedfastly at each other, showed at once the utmost tokens of surprize. The voice of the latter began instantly to faulter; and, instead of finishing his speech, he sunk down into a chair, crying, "It is so, I am convinced it is so!"
"Bless me! what's the meaning of this?" cries Mrs. Miller; "you are not ill, I hope, cousin? Some water, a dram this instant."
"Be not frighted, madam," cries Jones, "I have almost as much need of a dram as your cousin. We are equally surprized at this unexpected meeting. Your cousin is an acquaintance of mine, Mrs. Miller."
"An acquaintance!" cries the man.— "Oh, heaven!"
"Ay, an acquaintance," repeated Jones, "and an honoured acquaintance too. When I do not love and honour the man who dares venture everything to preserve his wife and children from instant destruction, may I have a friend capable of disowning me in adversity!"
"Oh, you are an excellent young man," cries Mrs. Miller:- "Yes, indeed, poor creature! he hath ventured everything.- If he had not had one of the best of constitutions, it must have killed him."
"Cousin," cries the man, who had now pretty well recovered himself, "this is the angel from heaven whom I meant. This is he to whom, before I saw you, I owed the preservation of my Peggy. He it was to whose generosity every comfort, every support which I have procured for her, was owing. He is, indeed, the worthiest, bravest, noblest, of all human beings. O cousin, I have obligations to this gentleman of such a nature!"
"Mention nothing of obligations," cries Jones eagerly; "not a word, I insist upon it, not a word" (meaning, I suppose, that he would not have him betray the affair of the robbery to any person). "If, by the trifle you have received from me, I have preserved a whole family, sure pleasure was never bought so cheap."
"Oh, sir!" cries the man, "I wish you could this instant see my house. If any person had ever a right to the pleasure you mention, I am convinced it is yourself. My cousin tells me she acquainted you with the distress in which she found us. That, sir, is all greatly removed, and chiefly by your goodness.— My children have now a bed to lie on— and they have— they have— eternal blessings reward you for it!— they have bread to eat. My little boy is recovered; my wife is out of danger, and I am happy. All, all owing to you, sir, and to my cousin here, one of the best of women. Indeed, sir, I must see you at my house.- Indeed my wife must see you, and thank you.- My children too must express their gratitude.— Indeed, sir, they are not without a sense of their obligation; but what is my feeling, when I reflect to whom I owe that they are now capable of expressing their gratitude.— Oh, sir, the little hearts which you have warmed had now been cold as ice without your assistance."
Here Jones attempted to prevent the poor man from proceeding; but indeed the overflowing of his own heart would of itself have stopped his words. And now Mrs. Miller likewise began to pour forth thanksgivings, as well in her own name, as in that of her cousin, and concluded with saying, "She doubted not but such goodness would meet a glorious reward."
Jones answered, "He had been sufficiently rewarded already. Your cousin's account, madam," said he, "hath given me a sensation more pleasing than I have ever known. He must be a wretch who is unmoved at hearing such a story; how transporting then must be the thought of having happily acted a part in this scene! If there are men who cannot feel the delight of giving happiness to others, I sincerely pity them, as they are incapable of tasting what is, in my opinion, a greater honour, a higher interest, and a sweeter pleasure, than the ambitious, the avaricious, or the voluptuous man can ever obtain."
The hour of appointment being now come, Jones was forced to take a hasty leave, but not before he had heartily shaken his friend by the hand, and desired to see him again as soon as possible; promising that he would himself take the first opportunity of visiting him at his own house. He then stept into his chair, and proceeded to Lady Bellaston's, greatly exulting in the happiness which he had procured to this poor family; nor could he forbear reflecting, without horror, on the dreadful consequences which must have attended them, had he listened rather to the voice of strict justice, than to that of mercy, when he was attacked on the high road.
Mrs. Miller sung forth the praise of Jones during the whole evening, in which Mr. Anderson, while he stayed, so passionately accompanied her, that he was often on the very point of mentioning the circumstance of the robbery. However, he luckily recollected himself, and avoided an indiscretion which would have been so much the greater, as he knew Mrs. Miller to be extremely strict and nice in her principles. He was likewise well apprized of the loquacity of this lady; and yet such was his gratitude, that it had almost got the better both of discretion and shame, and made him publish that which would have defamed his own character, rather than omit any circumstances which might do the fullest honour to his benefactor.
In which the reader will be surprizedMr. Jones was rather earlier than the time appointed, and earlier than the lady; whose arrival was hindered, not only by the distance of the place where she dined, but by some other cross accidents very vexatious to one in her situation of mind. He was accordingly shown into the drawing-room, where he had not been many minutes before the door opened, and in came— no other than Sophia herself, who had left the play before the end of the first act; for this, as we have already said, being a new play, at which two large parties met, the one to damn, and the other to applaud, a violent uproar, and an engagement between the two parties, had so terrified our heroine, that she was glad to put herself under the protection of a young gentleman, who safely conveyed her to her chair.
As Lady Bellaston had acquainted her that she should not be at home till late, Sophia, expecting to find no one in the room, came hastily in, and went directly to a glass which almost fronted her, without once looking towards the upper end of the room, where the statue of Jones now stood motionless.- In this glass it was, after contemplating her own lovely face, that she first discovered the said statue; when, instantly turning about, she perceived the reality of the vision: upon which she gave a violent scream, and scarce preserved herself from fainting, till Jones was able to move to her, and support her in his arms.
To paint the looks or thoughts of either of these lovers, is beyond my power. As their sensations, from their mutual silence, may be judged to have been too big for their own utterance, it cannot be supposed that I should be able to express them: and the misfortune is, that few of my readers have been enough in love to feel by their own hearts what past at this time in theirs.
After a short pause, Jones, with faultering accents, said- "I see, madam, you are surprized."- "Surprized!" answered she; "Oh heavens! Indeed, I am surprized. I almost doubt whether you are the person you seem."- "Indeed," cries she, "my Sophia, pardon me, madam, for this once calling you so, I am that very wretched Jones, whom fortune, after so many disappointments, hath, at last, kindly conducted to you. Oh! my Sophia, did you know the thousand torments I have suffered in this long, fruitless pursuit."- "Pursuit of whom?" said Sophia, a little recollecting herself, and assuming a reserve air.- "Can you be so cruel to ask that question?" cries Jones; "Need I say, of you?" "Of me! answered Sophia: "Hath Mr. Jones, then, any such important business with me?"- "To some, madam," cries Jones, "this might seem an important business" (giving her the pocket-book), "I hope, madam, you will find it of the same value as when it was lost." Sophia took the pocket-book, and was going to speak, when he interrupted her thus:- "Let us not, I beseech you, lose one of these precious moments which fortune hath so kindly sent us. O, my Sophia! I have business of a much superior kind. Thus, on my knees, let me ask your pardon."- "My pardon!" cries she; "Sure, sir, after what is past, you cannot expect, after what I have heard."- "I scarce know what I say," answered Jones. "By heavens! I scarce wish you should pardon me. O my Sophia! henceforth never cast away a thought on such a wretch as I am. If any remembrance of me should ever intrude to give a moment's uneasiness to that tender bosom, think of my unworthiness; and let the remembrance of what passed at Upton blot me for ever from your mind."
Sophia stood trembling all this while. Her face was whiter than snow, and her heart was throbbing through her stays. But at the mention of Upton, a blush arose in her cheeks, and her eyes, which before she had scarce lifted up, were turned upon Jones with a glance of disdain. He understood this silent reproach, and replied to it thus: "O my Sophia! my only love! you cannot hate or despise me more for what happened there, than I do myself; but yet do me the justice to think, that my heart was never unfaithful to you. That had no share in the folly I was guilty of; it was even then unalterably yours. Though I despaired of possessing you, nay, almost of ever seeing you more, I doated still on your charming idea, and could seriously love no other woman. But if my heart had not been engaged, she, into company I accidently fell at that cursed place, was not an object of serious love. Believe me, my angel, I never have seen her from that day to this; and never intend or desire to see her again." Sophia, in her heart, was very glad to hear this; but forcing into her face an air of more coldness than she had yet assumed, "Why," said she, "Mr. Jones, do you take the trouble to make a defence where you are not accused? If I thought it worth while to accuse you, I have a charge of an unpardonable nature indeed."- "What is it, for heaven's sake?" answered Jones, trembling and pale, expecting to hear of his amour with Lady Bellaston. "Oh," said she, "how is it possible! can everything noble, and everything base, be lodged together in the same bosom?" Lady Bellaston, and the ignominious circumstance of having been kept, rose again in his mind, and stopt his mouth from any reply. "Could I have expected," proceeded Sophia, "such treatment from you? Nay, from any gentleman, from any man of honour? To have my name traduced in public; in inns, among the meanest vulgar! to have any little favours, that my unguarded heart may have too lightly betrayed me to grant, boasted of there! nay, even to hear that you had been forced to fly from my love!"
Nothing could equal Jones's surprize at these words of Sophia; but yet, not being guilty, he was much less embarrassed how to defend himself, than if she had touched that tender string at which his conscience had been alarmed. By some examination he presently found, that her supposing him guilty of so shocking an outrage against his love, and her reputation, was entirely owing to Partridge's talk at the inns before landlords and servants; for Sophia confessed to him it was from them that she received her intelligence. He had no very great difficulty to make her believe that he was entirely innocent of an offence so foreign to his character; but she had a great deal to hinder him from going instantly home, and putting Partridge to death, which he more than once swore he would do. This point being cleared up, they soon found themselves so well pleased with each other, that Jones quite forgot he had begun the conversation with conjuring her to give up all thoughts of him; and she was in a temper to have given ear to a petition of a very different nature; for before they were aware they had both gone so far, that he let fall some words that sounded like a proposal of marriage. To which she replied, "That, did not her duty to her father forbid her to follow her own inclinations, ruin with him would be more welcome to her than the most affluent fortune with another man." At the mention of the word ruin, he started, let drop her hand, which he had held for some time, and striking his breast with his own, cried out, "Oh, Sophia! can I then ruin thee? No; by heavens, no! I never will act so base a part. Dearest Sophia, whatever it costs me, I will renounce you; I will give you up; I will tear all such hopes from my heart as are inconsistent with your real good. My love I will ever retain, but it shall be in silence; it shall be at a distance from you; it shall be in some foreign land; from whence no voice, no sigh of my despair, shall ever reach and disturb your ears. And when I am dead"- He would have gone on, but was stopt by a flood of tears which Sophia let fall in his bosom, upon which she leaned, without being able to speak one word. He kissed them off, which, for some moments, she allowed him to do without any resistance; but then recollecting herself, gently withdrew out of his arms; and, to turn the discourse from a subject too tender, and which she found she could not support, bethought herself to ask him a question she never had time to put to him before, "How he came into that room?" He began to stammer, and would, in all probability, have raised her suspicions by the answer he was going to give, when, at once, the door opened, and in came Lady Bellaston.
Having advanced a few steps, and seeing Jones and Sophia together, she suddenly stopt; when, after a pause of a few moments, recollecting herself with admirable presence of mind, she said- though with sufficient indications of surprize both in voice and countenance- "I thought, Miss Western, you had been at the play?"
Though Sophia had no opportunity of learning of Jones by what means he had discovered her, yet, as she had not the least suspicion of the real truth, or that Jones and Lady Bellaston were acquainted, so she was very little confounded; and the less, as the lady had, in all their conversations on the subject, entirely taken her side against her father. With very little hesitation, therefore, she went through the whole story of what had happened at the play-house, and the cause of her hasty return.
The length of this narrative gave Lady Bellaston an opportunity of rallying her spirits, and of considering in what manner to act. And as the behaviour of Sophia gave her hopes that Jones had not betrayed her, she put on an air of good humour, and said, "I should not have broke in so abruptly upon you, Miss Western, if I had known you had company."
Lady Bellaston fixed her eyes on Sophia whilst she spoke these words. To which that poor young lady, having her face overspread with blushes and confusion, answered, in a stammering voice, "I am sure, madam, I shall always think the honour of your ladyship's company—" "I hope, at least," cries Lady Bellaston, "I interrupt no business."- "No, madam," answered Sophia, "our business was at an end. Your ladyship may be pleased to remember I have often mentioned the loss of my pocket-book, which this gentleman, having very luckily found, was so kind to return it to me with the bill in it."
Jones, ever since the arrival of Lady Bellaston, had been ready to sink with fear. He sat kicking his heels, playing with his fingers, and looking more like a fool, if it be possible, than a young booby squire, when he is first introduced into a polite assembly. He began, however, now to recover himself; and taking a hint from the behaviour of Lady Bellaston, who he saw did not intend to claim any acquaintance with him, he resolved as entirely to affect the stranger on his part. He said, "Ever since he had the pocket-book in his possession, he had used great diligence in inquiring out the lady whose name was writ in it; but never till that day could be so fortunate to discover her."
Sophia indeed mentioned the loss of her pocket-book to Lady Bellaston; but as Jones, for some reason or other, had never once hinted to her that it was in his possession, she believed not one syllable of what Sophia now said, and wonderfully admired the extreme quickness of the young lady in inventing such an excuse. The reason of Sophia's leaving the playhouse met with no better credit; and though she could not account for the meeting. between these two lovers, she was firmly persuaded it was not accidental.
With an affected smile, therefore, she said, "Indeed, Miss Western, you have had very good luck in recovering your money. Not only as it fell into the hands of a gentleman of honour, but as he happened to discover to whom it belonged. I think you would not consent to have it advertised.- It was great good fortune, sir, that you found out to whom the note belonged."
"Oh, madam," cries Jones, "it was enclosed in a pocket-book, in which the young lady's name was written."
"That was very fortunate indeed," cries the lady:- "And it was no less so, that you heard Miss Western was at my house; for she is very little known."
Jones had at length perfectly recovered his spirits; and as he conceived he had now an opportunity of satisfying Sophia, as to the question she had asked him just before Lady Bellaston came in, he proceeded thus: "Why, madam," answered he, "it was by the luckiest chance imaginable I made this discovery. I was mentioning what I had found, and the name of the owner, the other night to a lady at the masquerade, who told me she believed she knew where I might see Miss Western; and if I would come to her house the next morning she would inform me. I went according to her appointment, but she was not at home; nor could I ever meet with her till this morning, when she directed me to your ladyship's house. I came accordingly, and did myself the honour to ask for your ladyship; and upon my saying that I had very particular business, a servant showed me into this room; where I had not been long before the young lady returned from the play."
Upon his mentioning the masquerade, he looked very slily at Lady Bellaston, without any fear of being remarked my Sophia; for she was visibly too much confounded to make any observations. This hint a little alarmed the lady, and she was silent; when Jones, who saw the agitation of Sophia's mind, resolved to take the only method of relieving her, which was by retiring; but, before he did this, he said, believe, madam, it is customary to give some reward on these occasions;- I must insist on a very high one for my honesty;- it is, madam, no less than the honour of being permitted to pay another visit here."
"Sir," replied the lady, "I make no doubt that you are a gentleman, and my doors are never shut to people of fashion."
Jones, then after proper ceremonials, departed, highly to his own satisfaction, and no less to that of Sophia; who was terribly alarmed lest Lady Bellaston should discover what she knew already but too well.
Upon the stairs Jones met his old acquaintance, Mrs. Honour, who, notwithstanding all she had said against him, was now so well bred to behave with great civility. This meeting proved indeed a lucky circumstance, is he communicated to her the house where he lodged, with which Sophia was unacquainted.
In which the thirteenth book is concludedThe elegant Lord Shaftesbury somewhere objects to telling too much truth: by which it may be fairly inferred, that, in some cases, to lie is not only excusable, but commendable.
And surely there are no persons who may so properly challenge a right to this commendable deviation from truth, as young women in the affair of love; for which they may plead precept, education, and above all, the sanction, nay, I may say the necessity of custom, by which they are restrained, not from submitting to the honest impulses of nature (for that would be a foolish prohibition), but from owning them.
We are not, therefore, ashamed to say, that our heroine now pursued the dictates of the above-mentioned right honourable philosopher. As she was perfectly satisfied then, that Lady Bellaston was ignorant of the person of Jones, so she determined to keep her in that ignorance, though at the expense of a little fibbing.
Jones had not been long gone, before Lady Bellaston cryed, "Upton my word, a good pretty young fellow; I wonder who he is; for I don't remember ever to have seen his face before."
"Nor I neither, madam," cries Sophia. "I must say he behaved very handsomely in relation to my note."
"Yes; and he is a very handsome fellow," said the lady: "don't you think so?"
"I did not take much notice of him," answered Sophia, "but I thought he seemed rather awkward, and ungenteel than otherwise."
"You are extremely right," cries Lady Bellaston: "you may see, by his manner, that he hath not kept good company. Nay, notwithstanding his returning your note, and refusing the reward, I almost question whether he is a gentleman.— I have always observed there is a something in persons well born, which others can never acquire.— I think I will give orders not to be at home to him."
"Nay, sure, madam," answered Sophia, "one can't suspect after what he hath done;- besides, if your ladyship observed him, there was an elegance in his discourse, a delicacy, a prettiness of expression that, that—"
"I confess," said Lady Bellaston, "the fellow hath words— And indeed Sophia, you must forgive me, indeed you must."
"I forgive your ladyship!" said Sophia.
"Yes, indeed you must," answered she, laughing; "for I had a horrible suspicion when I first came into the room— I vow you must forgive it; but I suspected it was Mr. Jones himself."
"Did your ladyship, indeed?" cries Sophia, blushing, and affecting a laugh.
"Yes, I vow I did," answered she. "I can't imagine what put it into my head: for, give the fellow his due, he was genteely drest; which, I think, dear Sophy, is not commonly the case with your friend."
"This raillery," cries Sophia, "is a little cruel, Lady Bellaston, after my promise to your ladyship."
"Not at all, child," said the lady;— "It would have been cruel before; but after you have promised me never to marry your father's consent, in which you know is implied your giving up Jones, sure you can bear a little raillery on a passion which was pardonable enough in a young girl in the country, and of which you tell me you have so entirely got the better. What must I think, my dear Sophy, if you cannot bear a little ridicule even on his dress? I shall begin to fear you are very far gone indeed; and almost question whether you have dealt ingenuously with me."
"Indeed, madam," cries Sophia, "your ladyship mistakes me, if you imagine I had any concern on his account."
"On his account!" answered the lady: "You must have mistaken me; I went no farther than his dress;— for I would not injure your taste by any other comparison— I don't imagine, my dear Sophy, if your Mr. Jones had been such a fellow as this-"
"I thought," says Sophia, "your ladyship had allowed him to be handsome"—
"Whom, pray?" cried the lady hastily.
"Mr. Jones," answered Sophia;- and immediately recollecting herself, "Mr. Jones!- no, no; I ask your pardon;- I mean the gentleman who was just now here."
"O Sophy! Sophy!" cries the lady; "this Mr. Jones, I am afraid, still runs in your head."
"Then, upon my honour, madam," said Sophia, "Mr. Jones is as entirely indifferent to me, as the gentleman who just now left us."
"Upon my honour," said Lady Bellaston, "I believe it. Forgive me, therefore, a little innocent raillery; but I promise you I will never mention his name any more."
And now the two ladies separated, infinitely more to the delight of Sophia than of Lady Bellaston, who would willingly have tormented her rival a little longer, had not business of more importance called her away. As for Sophia, her mind was not perfectly easy under this first practice of deceit; upon which, when she retired to her chamber, she reflected with the highest uneasiness and conscious shame. Nor could the peculiar hardship of her situation, and the necessity of the case, at all reconcile her mind to her conduct; for the frame of her mind was too delicate to bear the thought of having been guilty of a falsehood, however qualified by circumstances. Nor did this thought once suffer her to close her eyes during the whole succeeding night.
Return to Table of Contents.