Henry Fielding. (17071754). The History of Tom Jones.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction. 1917.
Book V. Containing a Portion of Time Somewhat Longer Than Half a Year
VIII. Containing Matter Rather Natural Than Pleasing
BESIDES grief for her master, there was another source for that briny stream which so plentifully rose above the two mountainous cheek-bones of the housekeeper. She was no sooner retired, than she began to mutter to herself in the following pleasant strain: Sure master might have made some difference, methinks, between me and the other servants. I suppose he hath left me mourning; but, ifackins! if that be all, the devil shall wear it for him, for me. Id have his worship know I am no beggar. I have saved five hundred pound in his service, and after all to be used in this manner.It is a fine encouragement to servants to be honest; and to be sure, if I have taken a little something now and then, others have taken ten times as much; and now we are all put in a lump together. If so be that it be so, the legacy may go to the devil with him that gave it. No, I wont give it up neither, because that will please some folks. No, Ill buy the gayest gown I can get, and dance over the old curmudgeons grave in it. This is my reward for taking his part so often, when all the country have cried shame of him, for breeding up his bastard in that manner; but he is going now where he must pay for all. It would have become him better to have repented of his sins on his deathbed, than to glory in them, and give away his estate out of his own family to a misbegotten child. Found in his bed, forsooth! a pretty story! ay, ay, those that hide know where to find. Lord forgive him! I warrant he hath many more bastards to answer for, if the truth was known. One comfort is, they will be known where he is a going now.The servants will find some token to remember me by. Those were the very words; I shall never forget them, if I was to live a thousand years. Ay, ay, I shall remember you for huddling me among the servants.
One would have thought he might have mentioned my name as well as that of Square; but he is a gentleman forsooth, though he had not clothes on his back when he came hither first. Marry come up with such gentlemen! though he hath lived here this many years, I dont believe there is arrow a servant in the house ever saw the colour of his money. The devil shall wait upon such a gentleman for me. Much more of the like kind she muttered to herself; but this taste shall suffice to the reader.
Neither Thwackum nor Square were much better satisfied with their legacies. Though they breathed not their resentment so loud, yet from the discontent which appeared in their countenances, as well as from the following dialogue, we collect that no great pleasure reigned in their minds.
About an hour after they had left the sick-room, Square met Thwackum in the hall and accosted him thus: Well, sir, have you heard any news of your friend since we parted from him?If you mean Mr. Allworthy, answered Thwackum, I think you might rather give him the appellation of your friend; for he seems to me to have deserved that title.The title is as good on your side, replied Square, for his bounty, such as it is, hath been equal to both.I should not have mentioned it first, cries Thwackum, but since you begin, I must inform you I am of a different opinion. There is a wide distinction between voluntary favours and rewards. The duty I have done in his family, and the care I have taken in the education of his two boys, are services for which some men might have expected a greater return. I would not have you imagine I am therefore dissatisfied; for St. Paul hath taught me to be content with the little I have. Had the modicum been less, I should have known my duty. But though the Scriptures obliges me to remain contented, it doth not enjoin me to shut my eyes to my own merit, nor restrain me from seeing when I am injured by an unjust comparison.Since you provoke me, returned Square, that injury is done to me; nor did I ever imagine Mr. Allworthy had held my friendship so light, as to put me in a balance with one who received his wages. I know to what it is owing; it proceeds from those narrow principles which you have been so long endeavouring to infuse into him, in contempt of everything which is great and noble. The beauty and loveliness of friendship is too strong for dim eyes, nor can it be perceived by any other medium than that unerring rule of right, which you have so often endeavoured to ridicule, that you have perverted your friends understanding.I wish, cries Thwackum, in a rage, I wish, for the sake of his soul, your damnable doctrines have not perverted his faith. It is to this I impute his present behaviour, so unbecoming a Christian. Who but an atheist could think of leaving the world without having first made up his account? without confessing his sins, and receiving that absolution which he knew he had one in the house duly authorized to give him? He will feel the want of these necessaries when it is too late, when he is arrived at that place where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth. It is then he will find in what mighty stead that heathen goddess, that virtue, which you and all other deists of the age adore, will stand him. He will then summon his priest, when there is none to be found, and will lament the want of that absolution, without which no sinner can be safe.If it be so material, says Square, why dont you present it him of your own accord? It hath no virtue, cries Thwackum, but to those who have sufficient grace to require it. But why do I talk thus to a heathen and an unbeliever? It is you that taught him this lesson, for which you have been well rewarded in this world, as I doubt not your disciple will soon be in the other.I know not what you mean by reward, said Square; but if you hint at that pitiful memorial of our friendship, which he hath thought fit to bequeath me, I despise it; and nothing but the unfortunate situation of my circumstances should prevail on me to accept it.
The physician now arrived, and began to inquire of the two disputants, how we all did above-stairs? In a miserable way, answered Thwackum. It is no more than I expected, cries the doctor; but pray what symptoms have appeared since I left you?No good ones, I am afraid, replied Thwackum: after what past at our departure, I think there were little hopes. The bodily physician, perhaps, misunderstood the curer of souls; and before they came to an explanation, Mr. Blifil came to them with a most melancholy countenance, and acquainted them that he brought sad news, that his mother was dead at Salisbury; that she had been seized on the road home with the gout in her head and stomach, which had carried her off in a few hours. Good-lack-a-day! says the doctor. One cannot answer for events; but I wish I had been at hand, to have been called in. The gout is a distemper which it is difficult to treat; yet I have been remarkably successful in it. Thwackum and Square both condoled with Mr. Blifil for the loss of his mother, which the one advised him to bear like a man, and the other like a Christian. The young gentleman said he knew very well we were all mortal, and he would endeavour to submit to his loss as well as he could. That he could not, however, help complaining a little against the peculiar severity of his fate, which brought the news of so great a calamity to him by surprize, and that at a time when he hourly expected the severest blow he was capable of feeling from the malice of fortune. He said, the present occasion would put to the test those excellent rudiments which he had learnt from Mr. Thwackum and Mr. Square; and it would be entirely owing to them, if he was enabled to survive such misfortunes.
It was now debated whether Mr. Allworthy should be informed of the death of his sister. This the doctor violently opposed; in which, I believe, the whole college would agree with him: but Mr. Blifil said, he had received such positive and repeated orders from his uncle, never to keep any secret from him for fear of the disquietude which it might give him, that he durst not think of disobedience, whatever might be the consequence. He said, for his part, considering the religious and philosophic temper of his uncle, he could not agree with the doctor in his apprehensions. He was therefore resolved to communicate it to him: for if his uncle recovered (as he heartily prayed he might) he knew he would never forgive an endeavour to keep a secret of this kind from him.
The physician was forced to submit to these resolutions, which the two other learned gentlemen very highly commended. So together moved Mr. Blifil and the doctor toward the sick-room; where the physician first entered, and approached the bed, in order to feel his patients pulse, which he had no sooner done, than he declared he was much better; that the last application had succeeded to a miracle, and had brought the fever to intermit; so that, he said, there appeared now to be as little danger as he had before apprehended there were hopes.
To say the truth, Mr. Allworthys situation had never been so bad as the great caution of the doctor had represented it: but as a wise general never despises his enemy, however inferior that enemys force may be, so neither doth a wise physician ever despise a distemper, however inconsiderable. As the former preserves the same strict discipline, places the same guards, and employs the same scouts, though the enemy be never so weak; so the latter maintains the same gravity of countenance, and shakes his head with the same significant air, let the distemper be never so trifling. And both, among many other good ones, may assign this solid reason for their conduct, that by these means the greater glory redounds to them if they gain the victory, and the less disgrace if by any unlucky accident they should happen to be conquered.
Mr. Allworthy had no sooner lifted up his eyes, and thanked Heaven for these hopes of his recovery, than Mr. Blifil drew near, with a very dejected aspect, and having applied his handkerchief to his eye, either to wipe away his tears, or to do as Ovid somewhere expresses himself on another occasion.
Si nullus erit, tamen excute nullum,
If there be none, then wipe away that none,
he communicated to his uncle what the reader hath been just before acquainted with.
He now enquired for the messenger; but Blifil told him it had been impossible to detain him a moment; for he appeared by the great hurry he was in to have some business of importance on his hands; that he complained of being hurried and driven and torn out of his life, and repeated many times that if he could divide himself into four quarters, he knew how to dispose of every one.
Allworthy then desired Blifil to take care of the funeral. He said, he would have his sister deposited in his own chapel; and as to the particulars, he left them to his own discretion, only mentioning the person whom he would have employed on this occasion.