Henry Fielding. (17071754). The History of Tom Jones.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction. 1917.
Book IV. Containing the Time of a Year
IX. Containing Matter of No Very Peaceable Colour
MOLLY had no sooner apparelled herself in her accustomed rags, than her sisters began to fall violently upon her, particularly her eldest sister, who told her she was well enough served. How had she the assurance to wear a gown which young Madam Western had given to mother! If one of us was to wear it, I think, says she, I myself have the best right; but I warrant you think it belongs to your beauty. I suppose you think yourself more handsomer than any of us.Hand her down the bit of glass from over the cupboard, cries another; Id wash the blood from my face before I talked of my beauty.Youd better have minded what the parson says, cries the eldest, and not a harkened after men voke.Indeed, child, and so she had, says the mother, sobbing: she hath brought a disgrace upon us all. Shes the vurst of the vamily that ever was a whore.
Yes, hussy, answered the enraged mother, so I was, and what was the mighty matter of that? I was made an honest woman then; and if you was to be made an honest woman, I should not be angry; but you must have to doing with a gentleman, you nasty slut; you will have a bastard, hussy, you will; and that I defy any one to say of me.
In this situation Black George found his family, when he came home for the purpose before mentioned. As his wife and three daughters were all of them talking together, and most of them crying, it was some time before he could get an opportunity of being heard; but as soon as such an interval occurred, he acquainted the company with what Sophia had said to him.
Goody Seagrim then began to revile her daughter afresh. Here, says she, you have brought us into a fine quandary indeed. What will madam say to that big belly? Oh that ever I should live to see this day!
Molly answered with great spirit, And what is this mighty place which you have got for me, father? (for he had not well understood the phrase used by Sophia of being about her person). I suppose it is to be under the cook; but I shant wash dishes for anybody. My gentleman will provide better for me. See what he hath given me this afternoon. He hath promised I shall never want money; and you shant want money neither, mother, if you will hold your tongue, and know when you are well. And so saying, she pulled out several guineas, and gave her mother one of them.
The good woman no sooner felt the gold within her palm, than her temper began (such is the efficacy of that panacea) to be mollified. Why, husband, says she, would any but such a blockhead as you not have enquired what place this was before he had accepted it? Perhaps, as Molly says, it may be in the kitchen; and truly I dont care my daughter should be a scullion wench; for, poor as I am, I am a gentlewoman. And thof I was obliged, as my father, who was a clergyman, died worse than nothing, and so could not give me a shilling of potion, to undervalue myself by marrying a poor man; yet I would have you to know, I have a spirit above all them things. Marry come up! it would better become Madam Western to look at home, and remember who her own grandfather was. Some of my family, for aught I know, might ride in their coaches, when the grandfathers of some voke walked a-voot. I warrant she fancies she did a mighty matter, when she sent us that old gownd; some of my family would not have picked up such rags in the street; but poor people are always trampled upon.The parish need not have been in such a fluster with Molly. You might have told them, child, your grandmother wore better things new out of the shop.
I dont know what answer, says she; you are always bringing your family into one quandary or other. Do you remember when you shot the partridge, the occasion of all our misfortunes? Did not I advise you never to go into Squire Westerns manor? Did not I tell you many a good year ago what would come of it? But you would have your own headstrong ways; yes, you would, you villain.
Black George was, in the main, a peaceable kind of fellow, and nothing choleric nor rash; yet did he bear about him something of what the antients called the irascible, and which his wife, if she had been endowed with much wisdom, would have feared. He had long experienced, that when the storm grew very high, arguments were but wind, which served rather to increase, than to abate it. He was therefore seldom unprovided with a small switch, a remedy of wonderful force, as he had often essayed, and which the word villain served as a hint for his applying.
No sooner, therefore, had this symptom appeared, than he had immediate recourse to the said remedy, which though, as it is usual in all very efficacious medicines, it at first seemed to heighten and inflame the disease, soon produced a total calm, and restored the patient to perfect ease and tranquillity.
This is, however, a kind of horse-medicine, which requires a very robust constitution to digest, and is therefore proper only for the vulgar, unless in one single instance, viz., where superiority of birth breaks out; in which case, we should not think it very improperly applied by any husband whatever, if the application was not in itself so base, that, like certain applications of the physical kind which need not be mentioned, it so much degrades and contaminates the hand employed in it, that no gentleman should endure the thought of anything so low and detestable.
The whole family were soon reduced to a state of perfect quiet; for the virtue of this medicine, like that of electricity, is often communicated through one person to many others, who are not touched by the instrument. To say the truth, as they both operate by friction, it may be doubted whether there is not something analogous between them, of which Mr. Freke would do well to enquire, before he publishes the next edition of his book.
A council was now called, in which, after many debates, Molly still persisting that she would not go to service, it was at length resolved, that Goody Seagrim herself should wait on Miss Western, and endeavour to procure the place for her eldest daughter, who declared great readiness to accept it: but Fortune, who seems to have been an enemy of this little family, afterwards put a stop to her promotion.