Joseph Andrews, by Henry Fielding

Chapter 12

Containing many surprizing adventures which Joseph Andrews met with on the road, scarce credible to those who have never travelled in a stage-coach.

Nothing remarkable happened on the road till their arrival at the inn to which the horses were ordered; whither they came about two in the morning. The moon then shone very bright; and Joseph, making his friend a present of a pint of wine, and thanking him for the favour of his horse, notwithstanding all entreaties to the contrary, proceeded on his journey on foot.

He had not gone above two miles, charmed with the hope of shortly seeing his beloved Fanny, when he was met by two fellows in a narrow lane, and ordered to stand and deliver. He readily gave them all the money he had, which was somewhat less than two pounds; and told them he hoped they would be so generous as to return him a few shillings, to defray his charges on his way home.

One of the ruffians answered with an oath, “Yes, we’ll give you something presently: but first strip and be d —— n’d to you.” — “Strip,” cried the other, “or I’ll blow your brains to the devil.” Joseph, remembering that he had borrowed his coat and breeches of a friend, and that he should be ashamed of making any excuse for not returning them, replied, he hoped they would not insist on his clothes, which were not worth much, but consider the coldness of the night. “You are cold, are you, you rascal?” said one of the robbers: “I’ll warm you with a vengeance;” and, damning his eyes, snapped a pistol at his head; which he had no sooner done than the other levelled a blow at him with his stick, which Joseph, who was expert at cudgel-playing, caught with his, and returned the favour so successfully on his adversary, that he laid him sprawling at his feet, and at the same instant received a blow from behind, with the butt end of a pistol, from the other villain, which felled him to the ground, and totally deprived him of his senses.

The thief who had been knocked down had now recovered himself; and both together fell to belabouring poor Joseph with their sticks, till they were convinced they had put an end to his miserable being: they then stripped him entirely naked, threw him into a ditch, and departed with their booty.

The poor wretch, who lay motionless a long time, just began to recover his senses as a stage-coach came by. The postillion, hearing a man’s groans, stopt his horses, and told the coachman he was certain there was a dead man lying in the ditch, for he heard him groan. “Go on, sirrah,” says the coachman; “we are confounded late, and have no time to look after dead men.” A lady, who heard what the postillion said, and likewise heard the groan, called eagerly to the coachman to stop and see what was the matter. Upon which he bid the postillion alight, and look into the ditch. He did so, and returned, “that there was a man sitting upright, as naked as ever he was born.” — “O J— sus!” cried the lady; “a naked man! Dear coachman, drive on and leave him.” Upon this the gentlemen got out of the coach; and Joseph begged them to have mercy upon him: for that he had been robbed and almost beaten to death. “Robbed!” cries an old gentleman: “let us make all the haste imaginable, or we shall be robbed too.” A young man who belonged to the law answered, “He wished they had passed by without taking any notice; but that now they might be proved to have been last in his company; if he should die they might be called to some account for his murder. He therefore thought it advisable to save the poor creature’s life, for their own sakes, if possible; at least, if he died, to prevent the jury’s finding that they fled for it. He was therefore of opinion to take the man into the coach, and carry him to the next inn.” The lady insisted, “That he should not come into the coach. That if they lifted him in, she would herself alight: for she had rather stay in that place to all eternity than ride with a naked man.” The coachman objected, “That he could not suffer him to be taken in unless somebody would pay a shilling for his carriage the four miles.” Which the two gentlemen refused to do. But the lawyer, who was afraid of some mischief happening to himself, if the wretch was left behind in that condition, saying no man could be too cautious in these matters, and that he remembered very extraordinary cases in the books, threatened the coachman, and bid him deny taking him up at his peril; for that, if he died, he should be indicted for his murder; and if he lived, and brought an action against him, he would willingly take a brief in it. These words had a sensible effect on the coachman, who was well acquainted with the person who spoke them; and the old gentleman above mentioned, thinking the naked man would afford him frequent opportunities of showing his wit to the lady, offered to join with the company in giving a mug of beer for his fare; till, partly alarmed by the threats of the one, and partly by the promises of the other, and being perhaps a little moved with compassion at the poor creature’s condition, who stood bleeding and shivering with the cold, he at length agreed; and Joseph was now advancing to the coach, where, seeing the lady, who held the sticks of her fan before her eyes, he absolutely refused, miserable as he was, to enter, unless he was furnished with sufficient covering to prevent giving the least offence to decency — so perfectly modest was this young man; such mighty effects had the spotless example of the amiable Pamela, and the excellent sermons of Mr Adams, wrought upon him.

Though there were several greatcoats about the coach, it was not easy to get over this difficulty which Joseph had started. The two gentlemen complained they were cold, and could not spare a rag; the man of wit saying, with a laugh, that charity began at home; and the coachman, who had two greatcoats spread under him, refused to lend either, lest they should be made bloody: the lady’s footman desired to be excused for the same reason, which the lady herself, notwithstanding her abhorrence of a naked man, approved: and it is more than probable poor Joseph, who obstinately adhered to his modest resolution, must have perished, unless the postillion (a lad who hath been since transported for robbing a hen-roost) had voluntarily stript off a greatcoat, his only garment, at the same time swearing a great oath (for which he was rebuked by the passengers), “that he would rather ride in his shirt all his life than suffer a fellow-creature to lie in so miserable a condition.”

Joseph, having put on the greatcoat, was lifted into the coach, which now proceeded on its journey. He declared himself almost dead with the cold, which gave the man of wit an occasion to ask the lady if she could not accommodate him with a dram. She answered, with some resentment, “She wondered at his asking her such a question; but assured him she never tasted any such thing.”

The lawyer was inquiring into the circumstances of the robbery, when the coach stopt, and one of the ruffians, putting a pistol in, demanded their money of the passengers, who readily gave it them; and the lady, in her fright, delivered up a little silver bottle, of about a half-pint size, which the rogue, clapping it to his mouth, and drinking her health, declared, held some of the best Nantes he had ever tasted: this the lady afterwards assured the company was the mistake of her maid, for that she had ordered her to fill the bottle with Hungary-water.

As soon as the fellows were departed, the lawyer, who had, it seems, a case of pistols in the seat of the coach, informed the company, that if it had been daylight, and he could have come at his pistols, he would not have submitted to the robbery: he likewise set forth that he had often met highwaymen when he travelled on horseback, but none ever durst attack him; concluding that, if he had not been more afraid for the lady than for himself, he should not have now parted with his money so easily.

As wit is generally observed to love to reside in empty pockets, so the gentleman whose ingenuity we have above remarked, as soon as he had parted with his money, began to grow wonderfully facetious. He made frequent allusions to Adam and Eve, and said many excellent things on figs and fig-leaves; which perhaps gave more offence to Joseph than to any other in the company.

The lawyer likewise made several very pretty jests without departing from his profession. He said, “If Joseph and the lady were alone, he would be more capable of making a conveyance to her, as his affairs were not fettered with any incumbrance; he’d warrant he soon suffered a recovery by a writ of entry, which was the proper way to create heirs in tail; that, for his own part, he would engage to make so firm a settlement in a coach, that there should be no danger of an ejectment,” with an inundation of the like gibberish, which he continued to vent till the coach arrived at an inn, where one servant-maid only was up, in readiness to attend the coachman, and furnish him with cold meat and a dram. Joseph desired to alight, and that he might have a bed prepared for him, which the maid readily promised to perform; and, being a good-natured wench, and not so squeamish as the lady had been, she clapt a large fagot on the fire, and, furnishing Joseph with a greatcoat belonging to one of the hostlers, desired him to sit down and warm himself whilst she made his bed. The coachman, in the meantime, took an opportunity to call up a surgeon, who lived within a few doors; after which, he reminded his passengers how late they were, and, after they had taken leave of Joseph, hurried them off as fast as he could.

The wench soon got Joseph to bed, and promised to use her interest to borrow him a shirt; but imagining, as she afterwards said, by his being so bloody, that he must be a dead man, she ran with all speed to hasten the surgeon, who was more than half drest, apprehending that the coach had been overturned, and some gentleman or lady hurt. As soon as the wench had informed him at his window that it was a poor foot-passenger who had been stripped of all he had, and almost murdered, he chid her for disturbing him so early, slipped off his clothes again, and very quietly returned to bed and to sleep.

Aurora now began to shew her blooming cheeks over the hills, whilst ten millions of feathered songsters, in jocund chorus, repeated odes a thousand times sweeter than those of our laureat, and sung both the day and the song; when the master of the inn, Mr Tow-wouse, arose, and learning from his maid an account of the robbery, and the situation of his poor naked guest, he shook his head, and cried, “good-lack-a-day!” and then ordered the girl to carry him one of his own shirts.

Mrs Tow-wouse was just awake, and had stretched out her arms in vain to fold her departed husband, when the maid entered the room. “Who’s there? Betty?” — “Yes, madam.” — “Where’s your master?” — “He’s without, madam; he hath sent me for a shirt to lend a poor naked man, who hath been robbed and murdered.” — “Touch one if you dare, you slut,” said Mrs Tow-wouse: “your master is a pretty sort of a man, to take in naked vagabonds, and clothe them with his own clothes. I shall have no such doings. If you offer to touch anything, I’ll throw the chamber-pot at your head. Go, send your master to me.” — “Yes, madam,” answered Betty. As soon as he came in, she thus began: “What the devil do you mean by this, Mr Tow-wouse? Am I to buy shirts to lend to a set of scabby rascals?” — “My dear,” said Mr Tow-wouse, “this is a poor wretch.” — “Yes,” says she, “I know it is a poor wretch; but what the devil have we to do with poor wretches? The law makes us provide for too many already. We shall have thirty or forty poor wretches in red coats shortly.” — “My dear,” cries Tow-wouse, “this man hath been robbed of all he hath.” — “Well then,” said she, “where’s his money to pay his reckoning? Why doth not such a fellow go to an alehouse? I shall send him packing as soon as I am up, I assure you.” — “My dear,” said he, “common charity won’t suffer you to do that.” — “Common charity, a f — t!” says she, “common charity teaches us to provide for ourselves and our families; and I and mine won’t be ruined by your charity, I assure you.” — “Well,” says he, “my dear, do as you will, when you are up; you know I never contradict you.” — “No,” says she; “if the devil was to contradict me, I would make the house too hot to hold him.”

With such like discourses they consumed near half-an-hour, whilst Betty provided a shirt from the hostler, who was one of her sweethearts, and put it on poor Joseph. The surgeon had likewise at last visited him, and washed and drest his wounds, and was now come to acquaint Mr Tow-wouse that his guest was in such extreme danger of his life, that he scarce saw any hopes of his recovery. “Here’s a pretty kettle of fish,” cries Mrs Tow-wouse, “you have brought upon us! We are like to have a funeral at our own expense.” Tow-wouse (who, notwithstanding his charity, would have given his vote as freely as ever he did at an election, that any other house in the kingdom should have quiet possession of his guest) answered, “My dear, I am not to blame; he was brought hither by the stage-coach, and Betty had put him to bed before I was stirring.” — “I’ll Betty her,” says she. — At which, with half her garments on, the other half under her arm, she sallied out in quest of the unfortunate Betty, whilst Tow-wouse and the surgeon went to pay a visit to poor Joseph, and inquire into the circumstances of this melancholy affair.

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Last updated Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 20:37