Joseph Andrews, by Henry Fielding

Chapter 5

The death of Sir Thomas Booby, with the affectionate and mournful behaviour of his widow, and the great purity of Joseph Andrews.

At this time an accident happened which put a stop to those agreeable walks, which probably would have soon puffed up the cheeks of Fame, and caused her to blow her brazen trumpet through the town; and this was no other than the death of Sir Thomas Booby, who, departing this life, left his disconsolate lady confined to her house, as closely as if she herself had been attacked by some violent disease. During the first six days the poor lady admitted none but Mrs. Slipslop, and three female friends, who made a party at cards: but on the seventh she ordered Joey, whom, for a good reason, we shall hereafter call JOSEPH, to bring up her tea-kettle. The lady being in bed, called Joseph to her, bade him sit down, and, having accidentally laid her hand on his, she asked him if he had ever been in love. Joseph answered, with some confusion, it was time enough for one so young as himself to think on such things. “As young as you are,” replied the lady, “I am convinced you are no stranger to that passion. Come, Joey,” says she, “tell me truly, who is the happy girl whose eyes have made a conquest of you?” Joseph returned, that all the women he had ever seen were equally indifferent to him. “Oh then,” said the lady, “you are a general lover. Indeed, you handsome fellows, like handsome women, are very long and difficult in fixing; but yet you shall never persuade me that your heart is so insusceptible of affection; I rather impute what you say to your secrecy, a very commendable quality, and what I am far from being angry with you for. Nothing can be more unworthy in a young man, than to betray any intimacies with the ladies.” “Ladies! madam,” said Joseph, “I am sure I never had the impudence to think of any that deserve that name.” “Don’t pretend to too much modesty,” said she, “for that sometimes may be impertinent: but pray answer me this question. Suppose a lady should happen to like you; suppose she should prefer you to all your sex, and admit you to the same familiarities as you might have hoped for if you had been born her equal, are you certain that no vanity could tempt you to discover her? Answer me honestly, Joseph; have you so much more sense and so much more virtue than you handsome young fellows generally have, who make no scruple of sacrificing our dear reputation to your pride, without considering the great obligation we lay on you by our condescension and confidence? Can you keep a secret, my Joey?” “Madam,” says he, “I hope your ladyship can’t tax me with ever betraying the secrets of the family; and I hope, if you was to turn me away, I might have that character of you.” “I don’t intend to turn you away, Joey,” said she, and sighed; “I am afraid it is not in my power.” She then raised herself a little in her bed, and discovered one of the whitest necks that ever was seen; at which Joseph blushed. “La!” says she, in an affected surprize, “what am I doing? I have trusted myself with a man alone, naked in bed; suppose you should have any wicked intentions upon my honour, how should I defend myself?” Joseph protested that he never had the least evil design against her. “No,” says she, “perhaps you may not call your designs wicked; and perhaps they are not so.” — He swore they were not. “You misunderstand me,” says she; “I mean if they were against my honour, they may not be wicked; but the world calls them so. But then, say you, the world will never know anything of the matter; yet would not that be trusting to your secrecy? Must not my reputation be then in your power? Would you not then be my master?” Joseph begged her ladyship to be comforted; for that he would never imagine the least wicked thing against her, and that he had rather die a thousand deaths than give her any reason to suspect him. “Yes,” said she, “I must have reason to suspect you. Are you not a man? and, without vanity, I may pretend to some charms. But perhaps you may fear I should prosecute you; indeed I hope you do; and yet Heaven knows I should never have the confidence to appear before a court of justice; and you know, Joey, I am of a forgiving temper. Tell me, Joey, don’t you think I should forgive you?” — “Indeed, madam,” says Joseph, “I will never do anything to disoblige your ladyship.” — “How,” says she, “do you think it would not disoblige me then? Do you think I would willingly suffer you?” — “I don’t understand you, madam,” says Joseph. — “Don’t you?” said she, “then you are either a fool, or pretend to be so; I find I was mistaken in you. So get you downstairs, and never let me see your face again; your pretended innocence cannot impose on me.” — “Madam,” said Joseph, “I would not have your ladyship think any evil of me. I have always endeavoured to be a dutiful servant both to you and my master.” — “O thou villain!” answered my lady; “why didst thou mention the name of that dear man, unless to torment me, to bring his precious memory to my mind?” (and then she burst into a fit of tears.) “Get thee from my sight! I shall never endure thee more.” At which words she turned away from him; and Joseph retreated from the room in a most disconsolate condition, and writ that letter which the reader will find in the next chapter.

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