Joseph Andrews, by Henry Fielding

Chapter 14

Being very full of adventures which succeeded each other at the inn.

It was now the dusk of the evening, when a grave person rode into the inn, and, committing his horse to the hostler, went directly into the kitchen, and, having called for a pipe of tobacco, took his place by the fireside, where several other persons were likewise assembled.

The discourse ran altogether on the robbery which was committed the night before, and on the poor wretch who lay above in the dreadful condition in which we have already seen him. Mrs Tow-wouse said, “She wondered what the devil Tom Whipwell meant by bringing such guests to her house, when there were so many alehouses on the road proper for their reception. But she assured him, if he died, the parish should be at the expense of the funeral.” She added, “Nothing would serve the fellow’s turn but tea, she would assure him.” Betty, who was just returned from her charitable office, answered, she believed he was a gentleman, for she never saw a finer skin in her life. “Pox on his skin!” replied Mrs Tow-wouse, “I suppose that is all we are like to have for the reckoning. I desire no such gentlemen should ever call at the Dragon” (which it seems was the sign of the inn).

The gentleman lately arrived discovered a great deal of emotion at the distress of this poor creature, whom he observed to be fallen not into the most compassionate hands. And indeed, if Mrs Tow-wouse had given no utterance to the sweetness of her temper, nature had taken such pains in her countenance, that Hogarth himself never gave more expression to a picture.

Her person was short, thin, and crooked. Her forehead projected in the middle, and thence descended in a declivity to the top of her nose, which was sharp and red, and would have hung over her lips, had not nature turned up the end of it. Her lips were two bits of skin, which, whenever she spoke, she drew together in a purse. Her chin was peaked; and at the upper end of that skin which composed her cheeks, stood two bones, that almost hid a pair of small red eyes. Add to this a voice most wonderfully adapted to the sentiments it was to convey, being both loud and hoarse.

It is not easy to say whether the gentleman had conceived a greater dislike for his landlady or compassion for her unhappy guest. He inquired very earnestly of the surgeon, who was now come into the kitchen, whether he had any hopes of his recovery? He begged him to use all possible means towards it, telling him, “it was I the duty of men of all professions to apply their skill gratis for the relief of the poor and necessitous.” The surgeon answered, “He should take proper care; but he defied all the surgeons in London to do him any good.” — “Pray, sir,” said the gentleman, “what are his wounds?” — “Why, do you know anything of wounds?” says the surgeon (winking upon Mrs Tow-wouse). — “Sir, I have a small smattering in surgery,” answered the gentleman. — “A smattering — ho, ho, ho!” said the surgeon; “I believe it is a smattering indeed.”

The company were all attentive, expecting to hear the doctor, who was what they call a dry fellow, expose the gentleman.

He began therefore with an air of triumph: “I I suppose, sir, you have travelled?” — “No, really, sir,” said the gentleman. — “Ho! then you have practised in the hospitals perhaps?” — “No, sir.” — “Hum! not that neither? Whence, sir, then, if I may be so bold to inquire, have you got your knowledge in surgery?” — “Sir,” answered the gentleman, “I do not pretend to much; but the little I know I have from books.” — “Books!” cries the doctor. “What, I suppose you have read Galen and Hippocrates!” — “No, sir,” said the gentleman. — “How! you understand surgery,” answers the doctor, “and not read Galen and Hippocrates?” — “Sir,” cries the other, “I believe there are many surgeons who have never read these authors.” — “I believe so too,” says the doctor, “more shame for them; but, thanks to my education, I have them by heart, and very seldom go without them both in my pocket.” — “They are pretty large books,” said the gentleman. — “Aye,” said the doctor, “I believe I know how large they are better than you.” (At which he fell a winking, and the whole company burst into a laugh.)

The doctor pursuing his triumph, asked the gentleman, “If he did not understand physic as well as surgery.” “Rather better,” answered the gentleman. — “Aye, like enough,” cries the doctor, with a wink. “Why, I know a little of physic too.” — “I wish I knew half so much,” said Tow-wouse, “I’d never wear an apron again.” — “Why, I believe, landlord,” cries the doctor, “there are few men, though I say it, within twelve miles of the place, that handle a fever better. Veniente accurrite morbo: that is my method. I suppose, brother, you understand Latin?” — “A little,” says the gentleman. — “Aye, and Greek now, I’ll warrant you: Ton dapomibominos poluflosboio Thalasses. But I have almost forgot these things: I could have repeated Homer by heart once.” — “Ifags! the gentleman has caught a traytor,” says Mrs Tow-wouse; at which they all fell a laughing.

The gentleman, who had not the least affection for joking, very contentedly suffered the doctor to enjoy his victory, which he did with no small satisfaction; and, having sufficiently sounded his depth, told him, “He was thoroughly convinced of his great learning and abilities; and that he would be obliged to him if he would let him know his opinion of his patient’s case above-stairs.” — “Sir,” says the doctor, “his case is that of a dead man — the contusion on his head has perforated the internal membrane of the occiput, and divelicated that radical small minute invisible nerve which coheres to the pericranium; and this was attended with a fever at first symptomatic, then pneumatic; and he is at length grown deliriuus, or delirious, as the vulgar express it.”

He was proceeding in this learned manner, when a mighty noise interrupted him. Some young fellows in the neighbourhood had taken one of the thieves, and were bringing him into the inn. Betty ran upstairs with this news to Joseph, who begged they might search for a little piece of broken gold, which had a ribband tied to it, and which he could swear to amongst all the hoards of the richest men in the universe.

Notwithstanding the fellow’s persisting in his innocence, the mob were very busy in searching him, and presently, among other things, pulled out the piece of gold just mentioned; which Betty no sooner saw than she laid violent hands on it, and conveyed it up to Joseph, who received it with raptures of joy, and, hugging it in his bosom, declared he could now die contented.

Within a few minutes afterwards came in some other fellows, with a bundle which they had found in a ditch, and which was indeed the cloaths which had been stripped off from Joseph, and the other things they had taken from him.

The gentleman no sooner saw the coat than he declared he knew the livery; and, if it had been taken from the poor creature above-stairs, desired he might see him; for that he was very well acquainted with the family to whom that livery belonged.

He was accordingly conducted up by Betty; but what, reader, was the surprize on both sides, when he saw Joseph was the person in bed, and when Joseph discovered the face of his good friend Mr Abraham Adams!

It would be impertinent to insert a discourse which chiefly turned on the relation of matters already well known to the reader; for, as soon as the curate had satisfied Joseph concerning the perfect health of his Fanny, he was on his side very inquisitive into all the particulars which had produced this unfortunate accident.

To return therefore to the kitchen, where a great variety of company were now assembled from all the rooms of the house, as well as the neighbourhood: so much delight do men take in contemplating the countenance of a thief.

Mr Tow-wouse began to rub his hands with pleasure at seeing so large an assembly; who would, he hoped, shortly adjourn into several apartments, in order to discourse over the robbery, and drink a health to all honest men. But Mrs Tow-wouse, whose misfortune it was commonly to see things a little perversely, began to rail at those who brought the fellow into her house; telling her husband, “They were very likely to thrive who kept a house of entertainment for beggars and thieves.”

The mob had now finished their search, and could find nothing about the captive likely to prove any evidence; for as to the cloaths, though the mob were very well satisfied with that proof, yet, as the surgeon observed, they could not convict him, because they were not found in his custody; to which Barnabas agreed, and added that these were bona waviata, and belonged to the lord of the manor.

“How,” says the surgeon, “do you say these goods belong to the lord of the manor?” — “I do,” cried Barnabas. — “Then I deny it,” says the surgeon: “what can the lord of the manor have to do in the case? Will any one attempt to persuade me that what a man finds is not his own?” — “I have heard,” says an old fellow in the corner, “justice Wise-one say, that, if every man had his right, whatever is found belongs to the king of London.” — “That may be true,” says Barnabas, “in some sense; for the law makes a difference between things stolen and things found; for a thing may be stolen that never is found, and a thing may be found that never was stolen: Now, goods that are both stolen and found are waviata; and they belong to the lord of the manor.” — “So the lord of the manor is the receiver of stolen goods,” says the doctor; at which there was an universal laugh, being first begun by himself.

While the prisoner, by persisting in his innocence, had almost (as there was no evidence against him) brought over Barnabas, the surgeon, Tow-wouse, and several others to his side, Betty informed them that they had overlooked a little piece of gold, which she had carried up to the man in bed, and which he offered to swear to amongst a million, aye, amongst ten thousand. This immediately turned the scale against the prisoner, and every one now concluded him guilty. It was resolved, therefore, to keep him secured that night, and early in the morning to carry him before a justice.

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