Book III - Chapter VIII
A childish incident, in which, however, is seen a good-natured disposition in Tom Jones.
The reader may remember that Mr Allworthy gave Tom Jones a little horse, as a kind of smart-money for the punishment which he imagined he had suffered innocently.
This horse Tom kept above half a year, and then rode him to a neighbouring fair, and sold him.
At his return, being questioned by Thwackum what he had done with the money for which the horse was sold, he frankly declared he would not tell him.
"Oho!" says Thwackum, "you will not! then I will have it out of your br--h;" that being the place to which he always applied for information on every doubtful occasion.
Tom was now mounted on the back of a footman, and everything prepared for execution, when Mr Allworthy, entering the room, gave the criminal a reprieve, and took him with him into another apartment; where, being alone with Tom, he put the same question to him which Thwackum had before asked him.
Tom answered, he could in duty refuse him nothing; but as for that tyrannical rascal, he would never make him any other answer than with a cudgel, with which he hoped soon to be able to pay him for all his barbarities.
Mr Allworthy very severely reprimanded the lad for his indecent and disrespectful expressions concerning his master; but much more for his avowing an intention of revenge. He threatened him with the entire loss of his favour, if he ever heard such another word from his mouth; for, he said, he would never support or befriend a reprobate. By these and the like declarations, he extorted some compunction from Tom, in which that youth was not over-sincere; for he really meditated some return for all the smarting favours he had received at the hands of the pedagogue. He was, however, brought by Mr Allworthy to express a concern for his resentment against Thwackum; and then the good man, after some wholesome admonition, permitted him to proceed, which he did as follows:--
"Indeed, my dear sir, I love and honour you more than all the world: I know the great obligations I have to you, and should detest myself if I thought my heart was capable of ingratitude. Could the little horse you gave me speak, I am sure he could tell you how fond I was of your present; for I had more pleasure in feeding him than in riding him. Indeed, sir, it went to my heart to part with him; nor would I have sold him upon any other account in the world than what I did. You yourself, sir, I am convinced, in my case, would have done the same: for none ever so sensibly felt the misfortunes of others. What would you feel, dear sir, if you thought yourself the occasion of them? Indeed, sir, there never was any misery like theirs."
"Like whose, child?" says Allworthy: "What do you mean?"
"Oh, sir!" answered Tom, "your poor gamekeeper, with all his large family, ever since your discarding him, have been perishing with all the miseries of cold and hunger: I could not bear to see these poor wretches naked and starving, and at the same time know myself to have been the occasion of all their sufferings. I could not bear it, sir; upon my soul, I could not." [Here the tears ran down his cheeks, and he thus proceeded.] "It was to save them from absolute destruction I parted with your dear present, notwithstanding all the value I had for it: I sold the horse for them, and they have every farthing of the money."
Mr Allworthy now stood silent for some moments, and before he spoke the tears started from his eyes. He at length dismissed Tom with a gentle rebuke, advising him for the future to apply to him in cases of distress, rather than to use extraordinary means of relieving them himself.
This affair was afterwards the subject of much debate between Thwackum and Square. Thwackum held, that this was flying in Mr Allworthy's face, who had intended to punish the fellow for his disobedience. He said, in some instances, what the world called charity appeared to him to be opposing the will of the Almighty, which had marked some particular persons for destruction; and that this was in like manner acting in opposition to Mr Allworthy; concluding, as usual, with a hearty recommendation of birch.
Square argued strongly on the other side, in opposition perhaps to Thwackum, or in compliance with Mr Allworthy, who seemed very much to approve what Jones had done. As to what he urged on this occasion, as I am convinced most of my readers will be much abler advocates for poor Jones, it would be impertinent to relate it. Indeed it was not difficult to reconcile to the rule of right an action which it would have been impossible to deduce from the rule of wrong.Next