Book XII - Chapter VIII
In which fortune seems to have been in a better humour with Jones than we have hitherto seen her.
As there is no wholesomer, so perhaps there are few stronger, sleeping potions than fatigue. Of this Jones might be said to have taken a very large dose, and it operated very forcibly upon him. He had already slept nine hours, and might perhaps have slept longer, had he not been awakened by a most violent noise at his chamber-door, where the sound of many heavy blows was accompanied with many exclamations of murder. Jones presently leapt from his bed, where he found the master of the puppet-show belabouring the back and ribs of his poor Merry-Andrew, without either mercy or moderation.
Jones instantly interposed on behalf of the suffering party, and pinned the insulting conqueror up to the wall: for the puppet-show man was no more able to contend with Jones than the poor party-coloured jester had been to contend with this puppet-man.
But though the Merry-Andrew was a little fellow, and not very strong, he had nevertheless some choler about him. He therefore no sooner found himself delivered from the enemy, than he began to attack him with the only weapon at which he was his equal. From this he first discharged a volley of general abusive words, and thence proceeded to some particular accusations--"D--n your bl--d, you rascal," says he, "I have not only supported you (for to me you owe all the money you get), but I have saved you from the gallows. Did you not want to rob the lady of her fine riding-habit, no longer ago than yesterday, in the back-lane here? Can you deny that you wished to have her alone in a wood to strip her--to strip one of the prettiest ladies that ever was seen in the world? and here you have fallen upon me, and have almost murdered me, for doing no harm to a girl as willing as myself, only because she likes me better than you."
Jones no sooner heard this than he quitted the master, laying on him at the same time the most violent injunctions of forbearance from any further insult on the Merry-Andrew; and then taking the poor wretch with him into his own apartment, he soon learned tidings of his Sophia, whom the fellow, as he was attending his master with his drum the day before, had seen pass by. He easily prevailed with the lad to show him the exact place, and then having summoned Partridge, he departed with the utmost expedition.
It was almost eight of the clock before all matters could be got ready for his departure: for Partridge was not in any haste, nor could the reckoning be presently adjusted; and when both these were settled and over, Jones would not quit the place before he had perfectly reconciled all differences between the master and the man.
When this was happily accomplished, he set forwards, and was by the trusty Merry-Andrew conducted to the spot by which Sophia had past; and then having handsomely rewarded his conductor, he again pushed on with the utmost eagerness, being highly delighted with the extraordinary manner in which he received his intelligence. Of this Partridge was no sooner acquainted, than he, with great earnestness, began to prophesy, and assured Jones that he would certainly have good success in the end: for, he said, "two such accidents could never have happened to direct him after his mistress, if Providence had not designed to bring them together at last." And this was the first time that Jones lent any attention to the superstitious doctrines of his companion.
They had not gone above two miles when a violent storm of rain overtook them; and, as they happened to be at the same time in sight of an ale-house, Partridge, with much earnest entreaty, prevailed with Jones to enter, and weather the storm. Hunger is an enemy (if indeed it may be called one) which partakes more of the English than of the French disposition; for, though you subdue this never so often, it will always rally again in time; and so it did with Partridge, who was no sooner arrived within the kitchen, than he began to ask the same questions which he had asked the night before. The consequence of this was an excellent cold chine being produced upon the table, upon which not only Partridge, but Jones himself, made a very hearty breakfast, though the latter began to grow again uneasy, as the people of the house could give him no fresh information concerning Sophia.
Their meal being over, Jones was again preparing to sally, notwithstanding the violence of the storm still continued; but Partridge begged heartily for another mug; and at last casting his eyes on a lad at the fire, who had entered into the kitchen, and who at that instant was looking as earnestly at him, he turned suddenly to Jones, and cried, "Master, give me your hand, a single mug shan't serve the turn this bout. Why, here's more news of Madam Sophia come to town. The boy there standing by the fire is the very lad that rode before her. I can swear to my own plaister on his face."--"Heavens bless you, sir," cries the boy, "it is your own plaister sure enough; I shall have always reason to remember your goodness; for it hath almost cured me."
At these words Jones started from his chair, and, bidding the boy follow him immediately, departed from the kitchen into a private apartment; for, so delicate was he with regard to Sophia, that he never willingly mentioned her name in the presence of many people; and, though he had, as it were, from the overflowings of his heart, given Sophia as a toast among the officers, where he thought it was impossible she should be known; yet, even there, the reader may remember how difficultly he was prevailed upon to mention her surname.
Hard therefore was it, and perhaps, in the opinion of many sagacious readers, very absurd and monstrous, that he should principally owe his present misfortune to the supposed want of that delicacy with which he so abounded; for, in reality, Sophia was much more offended at the freedoms which she thought (and not without good reason) he had taken with her name and character, than at any freedoms, in which, under his present circumstances, he had indulged himself with the person of another woman; and to say truth, I believe Honour could never have prevailed on her to leave Upton without her seeing Jones, had it not been for those two strong instances of a levity in his behaviour, so void of respect, and indeed so highly inconsistent with any degree of love and tenderness in great and delicate minds.
But so matters fell out, and so I must relate them; and if any reader is shocked at their appearing unnatural, I cannot help it. I must remind such persons that I am not writing a system, but a history, and I am not obliged to reconcile every matter to the received notions concerning truth and nature. But if this was never so easy to do, perhaps it might be more prudent in me to avoid it. For instance, as the fact at present before us now stands, without any comment of mine upon it, though it may at first sight offend some readers, yet, upon more mature consideration, it must please all; for wise and good men may consider what happened to Jones at Upton as a just punishment for his wickedness with regard to women, of which it was indeed the immediate consequence; and silly and bad persons may comfort themselves in their vices by flattering their own hearts that the characters of men are rather owing to accident than to virtue. Now, perhaps the reflections which we should be here inclined to draw would alike contradict both these conclusions, and would show that these incidents contribute only to confirm the great, useful, and uncommon doctrine, which it is the purpose of this whole work to inculcate, and which we must not fill up our pages by frequently repeating, as an ordinary parson fills his sermon by repeating his text at the end of every paragraph.
We are contented that it must appear, however unhappily Sophia had erred in her opinion of Jones, she had sufficient reason for her opinion; since, I believe, every other young lady would, in her situation, have erred in the same manner. Nay, had she followed her lover at this very time, and had entered this very alehouse the moment he was departed from it, she would have found the landlord as well acquainted with her name and person as the wench at Upton had appeared to be. For while Jones was examining his boy in whispers in an inner room, Partridge, who had no such delicacy in his disposition, was in the kitchen very openly catechising the other guide who had attended Mrs Fitzpatrick; by which means the landlord, whose ears were open on all such occasions, became perfectly well acquainted with the tumble of Sophia from her horse, &c., with the mistake concerning Jenny Cameron, with the many consequences of the punch, and, in short, with almost everything which had happened at the inn whence we despatched our ladies in a coach-and-six when we last took our leaves of them.Next