Henry Fielding. (17071754). The History of Tom Jones.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction. 1917.
Book XII. Containing the Same Individual Time with the Former
III. The Departure of Jones from Upton
AT length we are once more come to our heroe; and, to say truth, we have been obliged to part with him so long, that, considering the condition in which we left him, I apprehend many of our readers have concluded we intended to abandon him for ever; he being at present in that situation in which prudent people usually desist from enquiring any farther after their friends, lest they should be shocked by hearing such friends had hanged themselves.
But, in reality, if we have not all the virtues, I will boldly say, neither have we all the vices of a prudent character; and though it is not easy to conceive circumstances much more miserable than those of poor Jones at present, we shall return to him, and attend upon him with the same diligence as if he was wantoning in the brightest beams of fortune.
Mr. Jones, then, and his companion Partridge, left the inn a few minutes after the departure of Squire Western, and pursued the same road on foot, for the hostler told them that no horses were by any means to be at that time procured to Upton. On they marched with heavy hearts; for though their disquiet proceeded from very different reasons, yet displeased they were both; and if Jones sighed bitterly, Partridge grunted altogether as sadly at every step.
When they came to the cross-roads where the squire had stopt to take counsel, Jones stopt likewise, and turning to Partridge, asked his opinion which track they should pursue. Ah, sir, answered Partridge, I wish your honour would follow my advice. Why should I not? replied Jones; for it is now indifferent to me whither I go, or what becomes of me. My advice, then, said Partridge, is, that you immediately face about and return home; for who that hath such a home to return to as your honour, would travel thus about the country like a vagabond? I ask pardon, sed vox ea sola reperta est.
Alas! cries Jones, I have no home to return to;but if my friend, my father, would receive me, could I bear the country from which Sophia is flown? Cruel Sophia! Cruel! No; let me blame myself!No; let me blame thee. Dnation seize theefoolblockhead! thou hast undone me, and I will tear they soul from thy body.At which words he laid violent hands on the collar of poor Partridge, and shook him more heartily than an ague-fit, or his own fears had ever done before.
Partridge fell trembling on his knees, and begged for mercy, vowing he had meant no harmwhen Jones, after staring wildly on him for a moment, quitted his hold, and discharged a rage on himself, that, had it fallen on the other, would certainly have put an end to his being, which indeed the very apprehension of it had almost effected.
We would bestow some pains here in minutely describing all the mad pranks which Jones played on this occasion, could we be well assured that the reader would take the same pains in perusing them; but as we are apprehensive that, after all the labour which we should employ in painting this scene, the said reader would be very apt to skip it entirely over, we have saved ourselves that trouble. To say the truth, we have, from this reason alone, often done great violence to the luxuriance of our genius, and have left many excellent descriptions out of our work, which would otherwise have been in it. and this suspicion, to be honest, arises, as is generally the case, from our own wicked heart; for we have, ourselves, been very often most horridly given to jumping, as we have run through the pages of voluminous historians.
Suffice it then simply to say, that Jones, after having played the part of a madman for many minutes, came, by degrees, to himself; which no sooner happened, than, turning to Partridge he very earnestly begged his pardon for the attack he had made on him in the violence of his passion; but concluded, by desiring him never to mention his return again; for he was resolved never to see that country any more.
Partridge easily forgave, and faithfully promised to obey the injunction now laid upon him. And then Jones very briskly cried out, Since it is absolutely impossible for me to pursue any farther the steps of my angelI will pursue those of glory. Come on, my brave lad, now for the army:it is a glorious cause, and I would willingly sacrifice my life in it, even though it was worth my preserving And so saying, he immediately struck into the different road from that which the squire had taken, and, by mere chance, pursued the very same through which Sophia had before passed.
Our travellers now marched a full mile, without speaking a syllable to each other, though Jones, indeed, muttered many things to himself. As to Partridge, he was profoundly silent; for he was not, perhaps, perfectly, recovered from his former fright; besides, he had apprehensions of provoking his friend to a second fit of wrath, especially as he now began to entertain a conceit, which may not, perhaps, create any great wonder in the reader. In short, he began now to suspect that Jones was absolutely out of his senses.
At length, Jones, being weary of soliloquy, addressed himself to his companion, and blamed him for his taciturnity; for which the poor man very honestly accounted, from his fear of giving offence. And now this fear being pretty well removed, by the most absolute promises of indemnity, Partridge again took the bridle from his tongue; which, perhaps, rejoiced no less at regaining its liberty, than a young colt, when the bridle is slipt from his neck, and he is turned loose into the pastures.
As Partridge was inhibited from that topic which would have first suggested itself, he fell upon that which was next uppermost in his mind, namely, the Man of the Hill. Certainly, sir, says he, that could never be a man, who dresses himself and lives after such a strange manner, and so unlike other folks. Besides, his diet, as the old woman told me, is chiefly upon herbs, which is a fitter food for a house than a Christian: nay, landlord at Upton says that the neighbours thereabouts have very fearful notions about him. It runs strangely in my head that it must have been some spirit, who, perhaps, might be sent to forewarn us: and who knows but all that matter which he told us, of his going to fight, and of his being taken prisoner, and of the great danger he was in of being hanged, might be intended as a warning to us, considering what we are going about? besides, I dreamt of nothing all last night but of fighting; and methought the blood ran out of my nose, as liquor out of a tap. Indeed, sir, infandum, regina, jubes renovare dolorem.
Thy story, Partridge, answered Jones, is almost as ill applied as thy Latin. Nothing can be more likely to happen than death to men who go into battle. Perhaps we shall both fall in itand what then? What then? replied Partridge; why then there is an end of us, is there not? when I am gone, all is over with me. What matters the cause to me, or who gets the victory, if I am killed? I shall never enjoy any advantage from it. What are all the ringing of bells, and bonfires, to one that is six foot under ground? there will be an end of poor Partridge. And an end of poor Partridge, cries Jones, there must be, one time or other. If you love Latin, I will repeat you some fine lines out of Horace, which would inspire courage into a coward.
Thats very certain, cries Partridge. Ay, sure, Mors omnibus communis: but there is a great difference between dying in ones bed a great many years hence, like a good Christian, with all our friends crying about us, and being shot to-day or to-morrow, like a mad dog; or, perhaps, hacked in twenty pieces with the sword, and that too before we have repented of all our sins. O Lord, have mercy upon us! to be sure the soldiers are a wicked kind of people. I never loved to have anything to do with them. I could hardly bring myself ever to look upon them as Christians. There is nothing but cursing and swearing among them. I wish your honour would repent: I heartily wish you would repent before it is too late; and not think of going among them.Evil communication corrupts good manners. That is my principal reason. For as for that matter, I am no more afraid than another man, not I; as to matter of that. I know all human flesh must die; but yet a man may live many years, for all that. Why, I am a middle-aged man now, and yet I may live a great number of years. I have read of several who have lived to be above a hundred, and some a great deal above a hundred. Not that I hope, I mean that I promise myself, to live to any such age as that, neither.But if it be only to eighty or ninety. Heaven be praised, that is a great ways off yet; and I am not afraid of dying then, no more than another man; but, surely, to tempt death before a mans time is come seems to me downright wickedness and presumption. Besides, if it was to do any good indeed; but, let the cause be what it will, what mighty matter of good can two people do? and, for my part, I understand nothing of it. I never fired off a gun above ten times in my life; and then it was not charged with bullets. And for the sword, I never learned to fence, and know nothing of the matter. And then there are those cannons, which certainly it must be thought the highest presumption to go in the way of; and nobody but a madmanI ask pardon; upon my soul I meant no harm; I beg I may not throw your honour into another passion.
Be under no apprehension, Partridge, cries Jones; I am now so well convinced of thy cowardice, that thou couldst not provoke me on any account. Your honour, answered he, may call me coward, or anything else you please. If loving to sleep in a whole skin makes a man a coward, non immunes ab illis malis sumus. I never read in my grammer that a man cant be a good man without fighting. Vir bonus est quis? Qui consulta patrum, qui leges juraque servat. Not a word of fighting; and I am sure the scripture is so much against it, that a man shall never persuade me he is a good Christian while he sheds Christian blood.