Joseph Andrews, by Henry Fielding

Chapter 11

What happened to them while before the justice. A chapter very full of learning.

Their fellow-travellers were so engaged in the hot dispute concerning the division of the reward for apprehending these innocent people, that they attended very little to their discourse. They were now arrived at the justice’s house, and had sent one of his servants in to acquaint his worship that they had taken two robbers and brought them before him. The justice, who was just returned from a fox-chase, and had not yet finished his dinner, ordered them to carry the prisoners into the stable, whither they were attended by all the servants in the house, and all the people in the neighbourhood, who flocked together to see them with as much curiosity as if there was something uncommon to be seen, or that a rogue did not look like other people.

The justice, now being in the height of his mirth and his cups, bethought himself of the prisoners; and, telling his company he believed they should have good sport in their examination, he ordered them into his presence. They had no sooner entered the room than he began to revile them, saying, “That robberies on the highway were now grown so frequent, that people could not sleep safely in their beds, and assured them they both should be made examples of at the ensuing assizes.” After he had gone on some time in this manner, he was reminded by his clerk, “That it would be proper to take the depositions of the witnesses against them.” Which he bid him do, and he would light his pipe in the meantime. Whilst the clerk was employed in writing down the deposition of the fellow who had pretended to be robbed, the justice employed himself in cracking jests on poor Fanny, in which he was seconded by all the company at table. One asked, “Whether she was to be indicted for a highwayman?” Another whispered in her ear, “If she had not provided herself a great belly, he was at her service.” A third said, “He warranted she was a relation of Turpin.” To which one of the company, a great wit, shaking his head, and then his sides, answered, “He believed she was nearer related to Turpis;” at which there was an universal laugh. They were proceeding thus with the poor girl, when somebody, smoking the cassock peeping forth from under the greatcoat of Adams, cried out, “What have we here, a parson?” “How, sirrah,” says the justice, “do you go robbing in the dress of a clergyman? let me tell you your habit will not entitle you to the benefit of the clergy.” “Yes,” said the witty fellow, “he will have one benefit of clergy, he will be exalted above the heads of the people;” at which there was a second laugh. And now the witty spark, seeing his jokes take, began to rise in spirits; and, turning to Adams, challenged him to cap verses, and, provoking him by giving the first blow, he repeated —

“Molle meum levibus cord est vilebile telis.“

Upon which Adams, with a look full of ineffable contempt, told him, “He deserved scourging for his pronunciation.” The witty fellow answered, “What do you deserve, doctor, for not being able to answer the first time? Why, I’ll give one, you blockhead, with an S.

”‘Si licet, ut fulvum spectatur in ignibus haurum.‘

“What, canst not with an M neither? Thou art a pretty fellow for a parson! Why didst not steal some of the parson’s Latin as well as his gown?” Another at the table then answered, “If he had, you would have been too hard for him; I remember you at the college a very devil at this sport; I have seen you catch a freshman, for nobody that knew you would engage with you.” “I have forgot those things now,” cried the wit. “I believe I could have done pretty well formerly. Let’s see, what did I end with? — an M again — aye —

”‘Mars, Bacchus, Apollo, virorum.‘

I could have done it once.” “Ah! evil betide you, and so you can now,” said the other: “nobody in this country will undertake you.” Adams could hold no longer: “Friend,” said he, “I have a boy not above eight years old who would instruct thee that the last verse runs thus:—

”‘Ut sunt Divorum, Mars, Bacchus, Apollo, virorum.’“

“I’ll hold thee a guinea of that,” said the wit, throwing the money on the table. “And I’ll go your halves,” cries the other. “Done,” answered Adams; but upon applying to his pocket he was forced to retract, and own he had no money about him; which set them all a-laughing, and confirmed the triumph of his adversary, which was not moderate, any more than the approbation he met with from the whole company, who told Adams he must go a little longer to school before he attempted to attack that gentleman in Latin.

The clerk, having finished the depositions, as well of the fellow himself, as of those who apprehended the prisoners, delivered them to the justice; who, having sworn the several witnesses without reading a syllable, ordered his clerk to make the mittimus.

Adams then said, “He hoped he should not be condemned unheard.” “No, no,” cries the justice, “you will be asked what you have to say for yourself when you come on your trial: we are not trying you now; I shall only commit you to gaol: if you can prove your innocence at size, you will be found ignoramus, and so no harm done.” “Is it no punishment, sir, for an innocent man to lie several months in gaol?” cries Adams: “I beg you would at least hear me before you sign the mittimus.” “What signifies all you can say?” says the justice: “is it not here in black and white against you? I must tell you you are a very impertinent fellow to take up so much of my time. So make haste with his mittimus.”

The clerk now acquainted the justice that among other suspicious things, as a penknife, &c., found in Adams’s pocket, they had discovered a book written, as he apprehended, in cyphers; for no one could read a word in it. “Ay,” says the justice, “the fellow may be more than a common robber, he may be in a plot against the Government. Produce the book.” Upon which the poor manuscript of Aeschylus, which Adams had transcribed with his own hand, was brought forth; and the justice, looking at it, shook his head, and, turning to the prisoner, asked the meaning of those cyphers. “Cyphers?” answered Adams, “it is a manuscript of Aeschylus.” “Who? who?” said the justice. Adams repeated, “Aeschylus.” “That is an outlandish name,” cried the clerk. “A fictitious name rather, I believe,” said the justice. One of the company declared it looked very much like Greek. “Greek?” said the justice; “why, ’tis all writing.” “No,” says the other, “I don’t positively say it is so; for it is a very long time since I have seen any Greek.” “There’s one,” says he, turning to the parson of the parish, who was present, “will tell us immediately.” The parson, taking up the book, and putting on his spectacles and gravity together, muttered some words to himself, and then pronounced aloud — “Ay, indeed, it is a Greek manuscript; a very fine piece of antiquity. I make no doubt but it was stolen from the same clergyman from whom the rogue took the cassock.” “What did the rascal mean by his Aeschylus?” says the justice. “Pooh!” answered the doctor, with a contemptuous grin, “do you think that fellow knows anything of this book? Aeschylus! ho! ho! I see now what it is — a manuscript of one of the fathers. I know a nobleman who would give a great deal of money for such a piece of antiquity. Ay, ay, question and answer. The beginning is the catechism in Greek. Ay, ay, Pollaki toi: What’s your name?” — “Ay, what’s your name?” says the justice to Adams; who answered, “It is Aeschylus, and I will maintain it.” — “Oh! it is,” says the justice: “make Mr Aeschylus his mittimus. I will teach you to banter me with a false name.”

One of the company, having looked steadfastly at Adams, asked him, “If he did not know Lady Booby?” Upon which Adams, presently calling him to mind, answered in a rapture, “O squire! are you there? I believe you will inform his worship I am innocent.” — “I can indeed say,” replied the squire, “that I am very much surprized to see you in this situation:” and then, addressing himself to the justice, he said, “Sir, I assure you Mr Adams is a clergyman, as he appears, and a gentleman of a very good character. I wish you would enquire a little farther into this affair; for I am convinced of his innocence.” — “Nay,” says the justice, “if he is a gentleman, and you are sure he is innocent, I don’t desire to commit him, not I: I will commit the woman by herself, and take your bail for the gentleman: look into the book, clerk, and see how it is to take bail — come — and make the mittimus for the woman as fast as you can.” — “Sir,” cries Adams, “I assure you she is as innocent as myself.” — “Perhaps,” said the squire, “there may be some mistake! pray let us hear Mr Adams’s relation.” — “With all my heart,” answered the justice; “and give the gentleman a glass to wet his whistle before he begins. I know how to behave myself to gentlemen as well as another. Nobody can say I have committed a gentleman since I have been in the commission.” Adams then began the narrative, in which, though he was very prolix, he was uninterrupted, unless by several hums and hahs of the justice, and his desire to repeat those parts which seemed to him most material. When he had finished, the justice, who, on what the squire had said, believed every syllable of his story on his bare affirmation, notwithstanding the depositions on oath to the contrary, began to let loose several rogues and rascals against the witness, whom he ordered to stand forth, but in vain; the said witness, long since finding what turn matters were likely to take, had privily withdrawn, without attending the issue. The justice now flew into a violent passion, and was hardly prevailed with not to commit the innocent fellows who had been imposed on as well as himself. He swore, “They had best find out the fellow who was guilty of perjury, and bring him before him within two days, or he would bind them all over to their good behaviour.” They all promised to use their best endeavours to that purpose, and were dismissed. Then the justice insisted that Mr Adams should sit down and take a glass with him; and the parson of the parish delivered him back the manuscript without saying a word; nor would Adams, who plainly discerned his ignorance, expose it. As for Fanny, she was, at her own request, recommended to the care of a maid-servant of the house, who helped her to new dress and clean herself.

The company in the parlour had not been long seated before they were alarmed with a horrible uproar from without, where the persons who had apprehended Adams and Fanny had been regaling, according to the custom of the house, with the justice’s strong beer. These were all fallen together by the ears, and were cuffing each other without any mercy. The justice himself sallied out, and with the dignity of his presence soon put an end to the fray. On his return into the parlour, he reported, “That the occasion of the quarrel was no other than a dispute to whom, if Adams had been convicted, the greater share of the reward for apprehending him had belonged.” All the company laughed at this, except Adams, who, taking his pipe from his mouth, fetched a deep groan, and said, “He was concerned to see so litigious a temper in men. That he remembered a story something like it in one of the parishes where his cure lay:— There was,” continued he, “a competition between three young fellows for the place of the clerk, which I disposed of, to the best of my abilities, according to merit; that is, I gave it to him who had the happiest knack at setting a psalm. The clerk was no sooner established in his place than a contention began between the two disappointed candidates concerning their excellence; each contending on whom, had they two been the only competitors, my election would have fallen. This dispute frequently disturbed the congregation, and introduced a discord into the psalmody, till I was forced to silence them both. But, alas! the litigious spirit could not be stifled; and, being no longer able to vent itself in singing, it now broke forth in fighting. It produced many battles (for they were very near a match), and I believe would have ended fatally, had not the death of the clerk given me an opportunity to promote one of them to his place; which presently put an end to the dispute, and entirely reconciled the contending parties.” Adams then proceeded to make some philosophical observations on the folly of growing warm in disputes in which neither party is interested. He then applied himself vigorously to smoaking; and a long silence ensued, which was at length broke by the justice, who began to sing forth his own praises, and to value himself exceedingly on his nice discernment in the cause which had lately been before him. He was quickly interrupted by Mr Adams, between whom and his worship a dispute now arose, whether he ought not, in strictness of law, to have committed him, the said Adams; in which the latter maintained he ought to have been committed, and the justice as vehemently held he ought not. This had most probably produced a quarrel (for both were very violent and positive in their opinions), had not Fanny accidentally heard that a young fellow was going from the justice’s house to the very inn where the stage-coach in which Joseph was, put up. Upon this news, she immediately sent for the parson out of the parlour. Adams, when he found her resolute to go (though she would not own the reason, but pretended she could not bear to see the faces of those who had suspected her of such a crime), was as fully determined to go with her; he accordingly took leave of the justice and company: and so ended a dispute in which the law seemed shamefully to intend to set a magistrate and a divine together by the ears.

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