Joseph Andrews, by Henry Fielding

Chapter 12

A very delightful adventure, as well to the persons concerned as to the good-natured reader.

Adams, Fanny, and the guide, set out together about one in the morning, the moon being then just risen. They had not gone above a mile before a most violent storm of rain obliged them to take shelter in an inn, or rather alehouse, where Adams immediately procured himself a good fire, a toast and ale, and a pipe, and began to smoke with great content, utterly forgetting everything that had happened.

Fanny sat likewise down by the fire; but was much more impatient at the storm. She presently engaged the eyes of the host, his wife, the maid of the house, and the young fellow who was their guide; they all conceived they had never seen anything half so handsome; and indeed, reader, if thou art of an amorous hue, I advise thee to skip over the next paragraph; which, to render our history perfect, we are obliged to set down, humbly hoping that we may escape the fate of Pygmalion; for if it should happen to us, or to thee, to be struck with this picture, we should be perhaps in as helpless a condition as Narcissus, and might say to ourselves, Quod petis est nusquam. Or, if the finest features in it should set Lady —— ‘s image before our eyes, we should be still in as bad a situation, and might say to our desires, Coelum ipsum petimus stultitia.

Fanny was now in the nineteenth year of her age; she was tall and delicately shaped; but not one of those slender young women who seem rather intended to hang up in the hall of an anatomist than for any other purpose. On the contrary, she was so plump that she seemed bursting through her tight stays, especially in the part which confined her swelling breasts. Nor did her hips want the assistance of a hoop to extend them. The exact shape of her arms denoted the form of those limbs which she concealed; and though they were a little reddened by her labour, yet, if her sleeve slipped above her elbow, or her handkerchief discovered any part of her neck, a whiteness appeared which the finest Italian paint would be unable to reach. Her hair was of a chesnut brown, and nature had been extremely lavish to her of it, which she had cut, and on Sundays used to curl down her neck, in the modern fashion. Her forehead was high, her eyebrows arched, and rather full than otherwise. Her eyes black and sparkling; her nose just inclining to the Roman; her lips red and moist, and her underlip, according to the opinion of the ladies, too pouting. Her teeth were white, but not exactly even. The small-pox had left one only mark on her chin, which was so large, it might have been mistaken for a dimple, had not her left cheek produced one so near a neighbour to it, that the former served only for a foil to the latter. Her complexion was fair, a little injured by the sun, but overspread with such a bloom that the finest ladies would have exchanged all their white for it: add to these a countenance in which, though she was extremely bashful, a sensibility appeared almost incredible; and a sweetness, whenever she smiled, beyond either imitation or description. To conclude all, she had a natural gentility, superior to the acquisition of art, and which surprized all who beheld her.

This lovely creature was sitting by the fire with Adams, when her attention was suddenly engaged by a voice from an inner room, which sung the following song:—

THE SONG.

Say, Chloe, where must the swain stray

  Who is by thy beauties undone?

To wash their remembrance away,

  To what distant Lethe must run?

The wretch who is sentenced to die

  May escape, and leave justice behind;

From his country perhaps he may fly,

  But oh! can he fly from his mind?

O rapture! unthought of before,

  To be thus of Chloe possess’d;

Nor she, nor no tyrant’s hard power,

  Her image can tear from my breast.

But felt not Narcissus more joy,

  With his eyes he beheld his loved charms?

Yet what he beheld the fond boy

  More eagerly wish’d in his arms.

How can it thy dear image be

  Which fills thus my bosom with woe?

Can aught bear resemblance to thee

  Which grief and not joy can bestow?

This counterfeit snatch from my heart,

  Ye pow’rs, tho’ with torment I rave,

Tho’ mortal will prove the fell smart:

  I then shall find rest in my grave.

Ah, see the dear nymph o’er the plain

  Come smiling and tripping along!

A thousand Loves dance in her train,

  The Graces around her all throng.

To meet her soft Zephyrus flies,

  And wafts all the sweets from the flowers,

Ah, rogue I whilst he kisses her eyes,

  More sweets from her breath he devours.

My soul, whilst I gaze, is on fire:

  But her looks were so tender and kind,

My hope almost reach’d my desire,

  And left lame despair far behind.

Transported with madness, I flew,

  And eagerly seized on my bliss;

Her bosom but half she withdrew,

  But half she refused my fond kiss.

Advances like these made me bold;

  I whisper’d her — Love, we’re alone. —

The rest let immortals unfold;

  No language can tell but their own.

Ah, Chloe, expiring, I cried,

  How long I thy cruelty bore!

Ah, Strephon, she blushing replied,

  You ne’er was so pressing before.

Adams had been ruminating all this time on a passage in Aeschylus, without attending in the least to the voice, though one of the most melodious that ever was heard, when, casting his eyes on Fanny, he cried out, “Bless us, you look extremely pale!” — “Pale! Mr Adams,” says she; “O Jesus!” and fell backwards in her chair. Adams jumped up, flung his Aeschylus into the fire, and fell a-roaring to the people of the house for help. He soon summoned every one into the room, and the songster among the rest; but, O reader! when this nightingale, who was no other than Joseph Andrews himself, saw his beloved Fanny in the situation we have described her, canst thou conceive the agitations of his mind? If thou canst not, waive that meditation to behold his happiness, when, clasping her in his arms, he found life and blood returning into her cheeks: when he saw her open her beloved eyes, and heard her with the softest accent whisper, “Are you Joseph Andrews?” — “Art thou my Fanny?” he answered eagerly: and, pulling her to his heart, he imprinted numberless kisses on her lips, without considering who were present.

If prudes are offended at the lusciousness of this picture, they may take their eyes off from it, and survey parson Adams dancing about the room in a rapture of joy. Some philosophers may perhaps doubt whether he was not the happiest of the three: for the goodness of his heart enjoyed the blessings which were exulting in the breasts of both the other two, together with his own. But we shall leave such disquisitions, as too deep for us, to those who are building some favourite hypothesis, which they will refuse no metaphysical rubbish to erect and support: for our part, we give it clearly on the side of Joseph, whose happiness was not only greater than the parson’s, but of longer duration: for as soon as the first tumults of Adams’s rapture were over he cast his eyes towards the fire, where Aeschylus lay expiring; and immediately rescued the poor remains, to wit, the sheepskin covering, of his dear friend, which was the work of his own hands, and had been his inseparable companion for upwards of thirty years.

Fanny had no sooner perfectly recovered herself than she began to restrain the impetuosity of her transports; and, reflecting on what she had done and suffered in the presence of so many, she was immediately covered with confusion; and, pushing Joseph gently from her, she begged him to be quiet, nor would admit of either kiss or embrace any longer. Then, seeing Mrs Slipslop, she curtsied, and offered to advance to her; but that high woman would not return her curtsies; but, casting her eyes another way, immediately withdrew into another room, muttering, as she went, she wondered who the creature was.

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