Henry Fielding. (17071754). The History of Tom Jones.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction. 1917.
Book XIII. Containing the Space of Twelve Days
VII. Containing the Whole Humours of a Masquerade
OUR cavaliers now arrived at that temple, where Heydegger, the great Arbiter Deliciarum, the great high-priest of pleasure, presides; and, like other heathen priests, imposes on his votaries by the pretended presence of the deity, when in reality no such deity is there.
Jones began to entertain strong hopes that his Sophia was present; and these hopes gave him more spirits than the lights, the music, and the company; though these are pretty strong antidotes against the spleen. He now accosted every woman he saw, whose stature, shape, or air, bore any resemblance to his angel. To all of whom he endeavoured to say something smart, in order to engage an answer, by which he might discover that voice which he thought it impossible he should mistake. Some of these answered by a question, in a squeaking voice, Do you know me? Much the greater number said, I dont know you, sir, and nothing more. Some called him an impertinent fellow; some made him no answer at all; some said, Indeed I dont know your voice, and I shall have nothing to say to you; and many gave him as kind answers as he could wish, but not in the voice he desired to hear.
Whilst he was talking with one of these last (who was in the habit of a shepherdess) a lady in a domino came up to him, and slapping him on the shoulder, whispered him, at the same time, in the ear, If you talk any longer with that trollop, I will acquaint Miss Western.
Jones no sooner heard that name, than, immediately quitting his former companion, he applied to the domino, begging and entreating her to show him the lady she had mentioned, if she was then in the room.
The mask walked hastily to the upper end of the innermost apartment before she spoke; and then, instead of answering him, sat down, and declared she was tired. Jones sat down by her, and still persisted in his entreaties: at last the lady coldly answered, I imagined Mr. Jones had been a more discerning lover, than to suffer any disguise to conceal his mistress from him. Is she here, then, madam? replied Jones, with some vehemence. Upon which the lady criedHush, sir, you will be observed. I promise you, upon my honour, Miss Western is not here.
Jones, now taking the mask by the hand, fell to entreating her in the most earnest manner, to acquaint him where he might find Sophia: and when he could obtain no direct answer, he began to upbraid her gently for having disappointed him the day before; and concluded, saying, Indeed, my good fairy queen, I know your majesty very well, notwithstanding the affected disguise of your voice. Indeed, Mrs. Fitzpatrick, it is a little cruel to divert yourself at the expense of my torments.
The mask answered, Though you have so ingeniously discovered me, I must still speak in the same voice, lest I should be known by others. And do you think, good sir, that I have no greater regard for my cousin, than to assist in carrying on an affair between you two, which must end in her ruin, as well as your own? Besides, I promise you, my cousin is not mad enough to consent to her own destruction, if you are so much her enemy as to tempt her to it.
And yet to ruin any one, cries the other, you will allow, is the act of an enemy; and when by the same act you must knowingly and certainly bring ruin on yourself, is it not folly or madness, as well as guilt? Now, sir, my cousin hath very little more than her father will please to give her; very little for one of her fashionyou know him, and you know your own situation.
Jones vowed he had no such design on Sophia, That he would rather suffer the most violent of deaths than sacrifice her interest to his desires. He said, he knew how unworthy he was of her, every way, that he had long ago resolved to quit all such aspiring thoughts, but that some strange accidents had made him desirous to see her once more, when he promised he would take leave of her for ever. No, madam, concluded he, my love is not of that base kind which seeks its own satisfaction at the expense of what is most dear to its object. I would sacrifice everything to the possession of my Sophia, but Sophia herself.
Though the reader may have already conceived no very sublime idea of the virtue of the lady in the mask; and though possibly she may hereafter appear not to deserve one of the first characters of her sex; yet, it is certain, these generous sentiments made a strong impression upon her, and greatly added to the affection she had before conceived for our young heroe.
The lady now, after silence of a few moments, said, She did not see his pretensions to Sophia so much in the light of presumption, as of imprudence. Young fellows, says she, can never have too aspiring thoughts. I love ambition in a young man, and I would have you cultivate it as much as possible. Perhaps you may succeed with those who are infinitely superior in fortune; nay, I am convinced there are womenbut dont you think me a strange creature, Mr. Jones, to be thus giving advice to a man with whom I am so little acquainted, and one with whose behaviour to me I have so little reason to be pleased?
Here Jones began to apologize, and to hope he had not offended in anything he had said of her cousin.To which the mask answered, And are you so little versed in the sex, to imagine you can well affront a lady more than by entertaining her with your passion for another woman? If the fairy queen had conceived no better opinion of your gallantry, she would scarce have appointed you to meet her at the masquerade.
Jones had never less inclination to an amour than at present; but gallantry to the ladies was among his principles of honour; and he held it as much incumbent on him to accept a challenge to love, as if it had been a challenge to fight. Nay, his very love to Sophia made it necessary for him to keep well with the lady, as he made no doubt but she was capable of bringing him into the presence of the other.
He began therefore to make a very warm answer to her last speech, when a mask, in the character of an old woman, joined them. This mask was one of those ladies who go to a masquerade only to vent ill-nature, by telling people rude truths, and by endeavouring, as the phrase is, to spoil as much sport as they are able. This good lady, therefore, having observed Jones, and his friend, whom she well knew, inclose consultation together in a corner of the room, concluded she could nowhere satisfy her spleen better than by interrupting them. She attacked them, therefore, and soon drove them from their retirement; nor was she contented with this, but pursued them to every place which they shifted to avoid her; till Mr. Nightingale, seeing the distress of his friend, at last relieved him, and engaged the old woman in another pursuit.
While Jones and his mask were walking together about the room, to rid themselves of the teazer, he observed his lady speak to several masks, with the same freedom of acquaintance as if they had been barefaced. He could not help expressing his surprize at this; saying, Sure, madam, you must have infinite discernment, to know people in all disguises. To which the lady answered, You cannot conceive anything more insipid and childish than a masquerade to the people of fashion, who in general know one another as well here as when they meet in an assembly or a drawingroom; nor will any woman of condition converse with a person with whom she is not acquainted. In short, the generality of persons whom you see here may more properly be said to kill time in this place than in any other; and generally retire from hence more tired than from the longest sermon. To say the truth, I begin to be in that situation myself; and if I have any faculty at guessing, you are not much better pleased. I protest it would be almost charity in me to go home for your sake. I know but one charity equal to it, cries Jones, and that is to suffer me to wait on you home. Sure, answered the lady, you have a strange opinion of me, to imagine, that upon such an acquaintance, I would let you into my doors at this time of night. I fancy you impute the friendship I have shown my cousin to some other motive. Confess honestly; dont you consider this contrived interview as little better than a downright assignation? Are you used, Mr. Jones, to make these sudden conquests? I am not used, madam, said Jones, to submit to such sudden conquests; but as you have taken my heart by surprize, the rest of my body hath a right to follow; so you must pardon me if I resolve to attend you wherever you go. He accompanied these words with some proper actions; upon which the lady, after a gentle rebuke, and saying their familiarity would be observed, told him, She was going to sup with an acquaintance, whither she hoped he would not follow her; for if you should, said she, I shall be thought an unaccountable creature, though my friend indeed is not censorious: yet I hope you wont follow me; I protest I shall not know what to say if you do.
The lady presently after quitted the masquerade, and Jones, notwithstanding the severe prohibition he had received, presumed to attend her. He was now reduced to the same dilemma we have mentioned before, namely, the want of a shilling, and could not relieve it by borrowing as before. He therefore walked boldly on after the chair in which his lady rode, pursued by a grand huzza, from all the chairmen present, who wisely take the best care they can to discountenance all walking afoot by their betters. Luckily, however, the gentry who attend at the Opera-house were too busy to quit their stations, and as the lateness of the hour prevented him from meeting many of their brethren in the street, he proceeded without molestation, in a dress, which, at another season, would have certainly raised a mob at his heels.
Jones and his companion were now together in a very well-furnished and well-warmed room; when the female, still speaking in her masquerade voice, said she was surprized at her friend, who must absolutely have forgot her appointment; at which, after venting much resentment, she suddenly exprest some apprehension from Jones, and asked him what the world would think of their having been alone together in a house at that time of night? But instead of a direct answer to so important a question, Jones began to be very importunate with the lady to unmask; and at length having prevailed, there appeared not Mrs. Fitzpatrick, but the Lady Bellaston herself.
It would be tedious to give the particular conversation, which consisted of very common and ordinary occurrences, and which lasted from two till six oclock in the morning. It is sufficient to mention all of it that is anywise material to this history. And this was a promise that the lady would endeavour to find out Sophia, and in a few days bring him to an interview with her, on condition that he would then take his leave of her. When this was thoroughly settled, and a second meeting in the evening appointed at the same place, they separated; the lady returned to her house, and Jones to his lodgings.