Henry Fielding. (17071754). The History of Tom Jones.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction. 1917.
Book XVIII. Containing about Six Days
XII. Approaching Still Nearer to the End
JONES, being now completely dressed, attended his uncle to Mr. Westerns. He was, indeed, one of the finest figures ever beheld, and his person alone would have charmed the greater part of womankind; but we hope it hath already appeared in this history that Nature, when she formed him, did not totally rely, as she sometimes doth, on this merit only, to recommend her work.
Sophia, who, angry as she was, was likewise set forth to the best advantage, for which I leave my female readers to account, appeared so extremely beautiful, that even Allworthy, when he saw her, could not forbear whispering Western, that he believed she was the finest creature in the world. To which Western answered, in a whisper, overheard by all present, So much the better for Tom;for dn me if he shant ha the tousling her. Sophia was all over scarlet at these words, while Toms countenance was altogether as pale, and he was almost ready to sink from his chair.
The tea-table was scarce removed before Western lugged Allworthy out of the room, telling him he had business of consequence to impart, and must speak to him that instant in private, before he forgot it.
The lovers were now alone, and it will, I question not, appear strange to many readers, that those who had so much to say to one another when danger and difficulty attended their conversation, and who seemed so eager to rush into each others arms when so many bars lay in their way, now that with safety they were at liberty to say or do whatever they pleased, should both remain for some time silent and motionless; insomuch that a stranger of moderate sagacity might have well concluded they were mutually indifferent; but so it was, however strange it may seem; both sat with their eyes cast downwards on the ground, and for some minutes continued in perfect silence.
Mr. Jones during this interval attempted once or twice to speak, but was absolutely incapable, muttering only, or rather sighing out, some broken words; when Sophia at length, partly out of pity to him, and partly to turn the discourse from the subject which she knew well enough he was endeavouring to open, said
Sure, sir, you are the most fortunate man in the world in this discovery. And can you really, madam, think me so fortunate, said Jones, sighing, while I have incurred your displeasure?Nay, sir, says she, as to that you best know whether you have deserved it. Indeed, madam, answered he, you yourself are as well apprized of all my demerits. Mrs. Miller hath acquainted you with the whole truth. O! my Sophia, am I never to hope for forgiveness?I think, Mr. Jones, said she, I may almost depend on your own justice, and leave it to yourself to pass sentence on your own conduct.Alas! madam, answered he, it is mercy, and not justice, which I implore at your hands. Justice I know must condemn me.Yet not for the letter I sent to Lady Bellaston. Of that I most solemnly declare you have had a true account. He then insisted much on the security given him by Nightingale of a fair pretence for breaking off, if, contrary to their expectations, her ladyship should have accepted his offer; but confest that he had been guilty of a great indiscretion to put such a letter as that into her power, which, said he, I have dearly paid for, in the effect it has upon you. I do not, I cannot, says she, believe otherwise of that letter than you would have me. My conduct, I think, shews you clearly I do not believe there is much in that. And yet, Mr. Jones, have I not enough to resent? After what past at Upton, so soon to engage in a new amour with another woman, while I fancied, and you pretended, your heart was bleeding for me? Indeed, you have acted strangely. Can I believe the passion you have profest to me to be sincere? Or, if I can, what happiness can I assure myself of with a man capable of so much inconstancy? O! my Sophia, cries he, do not doubt the sincerity of the purest passion that ever inflamed a human breast. Think, most adorable creature, of my unhappy situation, of my despair. Could I, my Sophia, have flattered myself with the most distant hopes of being ever permitted to throw myself at your feet in the manner I do now, it would not have been in the power of any other woman to have inspired a thought which the severest chastity could have condemned. Inconstancy to you! O Sophia! if you can have goodness enough to pardon what is past, do not let any cruel future apprehensions shut your mercy against me. No repentance was ever more sincere. O! let it reconcile me to my heaven in this dear bosom. Sincere repentance, Mr. Jones, answered she, will obtain the pardon of a sinner, but it is from one who is a perfect judge of that sincerity. A human mind may be imposed on; nor is there any infallible method to prevent it. You must expect, however, that if I can be prevailed on by your repentance to pardon you, I will at least insist on the strongest proof of its sincerity. Name any proof in my power, answered Jones eagerly. Time, replied she; time alone, Mr. Jones, can convince me that you are a true penitent, and have resolved to abandon these vicious courses, which I should detest you for, if I imagined you capable of persevering in them. Do not imagine it, cries Jones. On my knees I intreat, I implore your confidence, a confidence which it shall be the business of my life to deserve. Let it then, said she, be the business of some part of your life to shew me you deserve it. I think I have been explicit enough in assuring you, that, when I see you merit my confidence, you will obtain it. After what is past, sir, can you expect I should take you upon your word?
He replied, Dont believe me upon my word; I have a better security, a pledge for my constancy, which it is impossible to see and to doubt. What is that? said Sophia, a little surprized. I will show you, my charming angel, cried Jones, seizing her hand and carrying her to the glass. There behold it there in that lovely figure, in that face, that shape, those eyes, that mind which shines through these eyes; can the man who shall be in possession of these be inconstant? Impossible! my Sophia; they would fix a Dorimant, a Lord Rochester. You could not doubt it, if you could see yourself with any eyes but your own. Sophia blushed and half smiled; but, forcing again her brow into a frownIf I am to judge, said she, of the future by the past, my image will no more remain in your heart when I am out of your sight, than it will in this glass when I am out of the room. By heaven, by all that is sacred! said Jones, it never was out of my heart. The delicacy of your sex cannot conceive the grossness of ours, nor how little one sort of amour has to do with the heart. I will never marry a man, replied Sophia, very gravely, who shall not learn refinement enough to be as incapable as I am myself of making such a distinction. I will learn it, said Jones. I have learnt it already. The first moment of hope that my Sophia might be my wife taught it me at once; and all the rest of her sex from that moment became as little the objects of desire to my sense as of passion to my heart. Well, says Sophia, the proof of this must be from time. Your situation, Mr. Jones, is now altered, and I assure you I have great satisfaction in the alteration. You will now want no opportunity of being near me, and convincing me that your mind is altered too. O! my angel, cries Jones, how shall I thank thy goodness! And are you so good to own that you have a satisfaction in my prosperity?Believe me, believe me, madam, it is you alone have given a relish to that prosperity, since I owe to it the dear hopeO! my Sophia, let it not be a distant one.I will be all obedience to your commands. I will not dare to press anything further than you permit me. Yet let me intreat you to appoint a short trial. O! tell me when I may expect you will be convinced of what is most solemnly true. When I have gone voluntarily thus far, Mr. Jones, said she, I expect not to be pressed. Nay, I will not.O! dont look unkindly thus, my Sophia, cries he. I do not, I dare not press you.Yet permit me at least once more to beg you would fix the period. O! consider the impatience of love.A twelvemonth, perhaps, said she. O! my Sophia, cries he, you have named an eternity.Perhaps it may be something sooner, says she; I will not be teazed. If your passion for me be what I would have it, I think you may now be easy.Easy! Sophia, call not such an exulting happiness as mine by so cold a name.O! transporting thought! am I not assured that the blessed day will come, when I shall call you mine; when fears shall be no more; when I shall have that dear, that vast, that exquisite, ecstatic delight of making my Sophia happy?Indeed, sir, said she, that day is in your own power.O! my dear, my divine angel, cried he, these words have made me mad with joy.But I must, I will thank those dear lips which have so sweetly pronounced my bliss. He then caught her in his arms, and kissed her with an ardour he had never ventured before.
At this instant Western, who had stood some time listening, burst into the room, and, with his hunting voice and phrase, cried out, To her, boy, to her, go to her.Thats it, little honeys, O thats it! Well! what, is it all over? Hath she appointed the day, boy? What, shall it be tomorrow or the next day? It shant be put off a minute longer than next day, I am resolved. Let me beseech you, sir, says Jones, dont let me be the occasionBeseech mine a, cries Western. I thought thou hadst been a lad of higher mettle than to give way to a parcel of maidenish tricks.I tell thee t is all flim-flam. Zoodikers! shed have the wedding tonight with all her heart. Wouldst not, Sophy? Come, confess, and be an honest girl for once. What, art dumb? Why dost not speak? Why should I confess, sir, says Sophia, since it seems you are so well acquainted with my thoughts?Thats a good girl, cries he, and dost consent then? No, indeed, sir, says Sophia, I have given no such consent.And wunt not ha un then tomorrow, nor next day? says Western.Indeed, sir, says she, I have no such intention. But I can tell thee, replied he, why hast nut; only because thou dost love to be disobedient, and to plague and vex thy father. Pray, sir, said Jones, interferingI tell thee thou art a puppy, cries he. When I vorbid her, then it was all nothing but sighing and whining, and languishing and writing; now I am vor thee, she is against thee. All the spirit of contrary, thats all. She is above being guided and governed by her father, that is the whole truth on t. It is only to disoblige and contradict me. What would my papa have me do? cries Sophia. What would I ha thee do? says he, why, gi un thy hand this moment.Well, sir, says Sophia, I will obey you.There is my hand, Mr. Jones. Well, and will you consent to ha un to-morrow morning? says Western.I will be obedient to you, sir, cries she.Why then to-morrow morning be the day, cries he. Why then to-morrow morning shall be the day, papa, since you will have it so, says Sophia. Jones then fell upon his knees, and kissed her hand in an agony of joy, while Western began to caper and dance about the room, presently crying outWhere the devil is Allworthy? He is without now, a talking with that dd lawyer Dowling, when he should be minding other matters. He then sallied out in quest of him, and very opportunely left the lovers to enjoy a few tender minutes alone.
But he soon returned with Allworthy, saying, If you wont believe me, you may ask her yourself. Hast nut gin thy consent, Sophy, to be married to-morrow? Such are your commands, sir, cries Sophia, and I dare not be guilty of disobedience. I hope, madam, cries Allworthy, my nephew will merit so much goodness, and will be always as sensible as myself of the great honour you have done my family. An alliance with so charming and so excellent a young lady would indeed be an honour to the greatest in England. Yes, cries Western, but if I had suffered her to stand shill I shall I, dilly dally, you might not have had that honour yet a while; I was forced to use a little fatherly authority to bring her to. I hope not, sir, cries Allworthy, I hope there is not the least constraint. Why, there, cries Western, you may bid her unsay all again if you will. Dost repent heartily of thy promise, dost not, Sophia? Indeed, papa, cries she, I do not repent, nor do I believe I ever shall, of any promise in favour of Mr. Jones. Then, nephew, cries Allworthy, I felicitate you most heartily; for I think you are the happiest of men. And, madam, you will give me leave to congratulate you on this joyful occasion: indeed, I am convinced you have bestowed yourself on one who will be sensible of your great merit, and who will at least use his best endeavours to deserve it. His best endeavours! cries Western, that he will, I warrant un.Harkee, Allworthy, Ill bet thee five pounds to a crown we have a boy to-morrow nine months; but prithee tell me what wut ha! Wut ha Burgundy, Champaigne, or what? for, please Jupiter, well make a night on t. Indeed, sir, said Allworthy, you must excuse me; both my nephew and I were engaged before I suspected this near approach of his happiness.Engaged! quoth the squire, never tell me.I wont part with thee to-night upon any occasion. Shalt sup here, please the lord Harry. You must pardon me, my dear neighbour! answered Allworthy; I have given a solemn promise, and that you know I never break. Why, prithee, who art engaged to? cries the squire.Allworthy then informed him, as likewise of the company.Odzookers! answered the squire, I will go with thee, and so shall Sophy! for I wont part with thee to-night; and it would be barbarous to part Tom and the girl. This offer was presently embraced by Allworthy, and Sophia consented, having first obtained a private promise from her father that he would not mention a syllable concerning her marriage.