Joseph Andrews, by Henry Fielding

Chapter 15

An adventure, the consequence of a new instance which parson Adams gave of his forgetfulness.

When he came back to the inn he found Joseph and Fanny sitting together. They were so far from thinking his absence long, as he had feared they would, that they never once missed or thought of him. Indeed, I have been often assured by both, that they spent these hours in a most delightful conversation; but, as I never could prevail on either to relate it, so I cannot communicate it to the reader.

Adams acquainted the lovers with the ill success of his enterprize. They were all greatly confounded, none being able to propose any method of departing, till Joseph at last advised calling in the hostess, and desiring her to trust them; which Fanny said she despaired of her doing, as she was one of the sourest-faced women she had ever beheld.

But she was agreeably disappointed; for the hostess was no sooner asked the question than she readily agreed; and, with a curtsy and smile, wished them a good journey. However, lest Fanny’s skill in physiognomy should be called in question, we will venture to assign one reason which might probably incline her to this confidence and good-humour. When Adams said he was going to visit his brother, he had unwittingly imposed on Joseph and Fanny, who both believed he had meant his natural brother, and not his brother in divinity, and had so informed the hostess, on her enquiry after him. Now Mr Trulliber had, by his professions of piety, by his gravity, austerity, reserve, and the opinion of his great wealth, so great an authority in his parish, that they all lived in the utmost fear and apprehension of him. It was therefore no wonder that the hostess, who knew it was in his option whether she should ever sell another mug of drink, did not dare to affront his supposed brother by denying him credit.

They were now just on their departure when Adams recollected he had left his greatcoat and hat at Mr Trulliber’s. As he was not desirous of renewing his visit, the hostess herself, having no servant at home, offered to fetch it.

This was an unfortunate expedient; for the hostess was soon undeceived in the opinion she had entertained of Adams, whom Trulliber abused in the grossest terms, especially when he heard he had had the assurance to pretend to be his near relation.

At her return, therefore, she entirely changed her note. She said, “Folks might be ashamed of travelling about, and pretending to be what they were not. That taxes were high, and for her part she was obliged to pay for what she had; she could not therefore possibly, nor would she, trust anybody; no, not her own father. That money was never scarcer, and she wanted to make up a sum. That she expected, therefore, they should pay their reckoning before they left the house.”

Adams was now greatly perplexed; but, as he knew that he could easily have borrowed such a sum in his own parish, and as he knew he would have lent it himself to any mortal in distress, so he took fresh courage, and sallied out all round the parish, but to no purpose; he returned as pennyless as he went, groaning and lamenting that it was possible, in a country professing Christianity, for a wretch to starve in the midst of his fellow-creatures who abounded.

Whilst he was gone, the hostess, who stayed as a sort of guard with Joseph and Fanny, entertained them with the goodness of parson Trulliber. And, indeed, he had not only a very good character as to other qualities in the neighbourhood, but was reputed a man of great charity; for, though he never gave a farthing, he had always that word in his mouth.

Adams was no sooner returned the second time than the storm grew exceedingly high, the hostess declaring, among other things, that, if they offered to stir without paying her, she would soon overtake them with a warrant.

Plato and Aristotle, or somebody else, hath said, that when the most exquisite cunning fails, chance often hits the mark, and that by means the least expected. Virgil expresses this very boldly:—

Turne, quod optanti divum promittere nemo

Auderet, volvenda dies, en! attulit ultro.

I would quote more great men if I could; but my memory not permitting me, I will proceed to exemplify these observations by the following instance:—

There chanced (for Adams had not cunning enough to contrive it) to be at that time in the alehouse a fellow who had been formerly a drummer in an Irish regiment, and now travelled the country as a pedlar. This man, having attentively listened to the discourse of the hostess, at last took Adams aside, and asked him what the sum was for which they were detained. As soon as he was informed, he sighed, and said, “He was sorry it was so much; for that he had no more than six shillings and sixpence in his pocket, which he would lend them with all his heart.” Adams gave a caper, and cry’d out, “It would do; for that he had sixpence himself.” And thus these poor people, who could not engage the compassion of riches and piety, were at length delivered out of their distress by the charity of a poor pedlar.

I shall refer it to my reader to make what observations he pleases on this incident: it is sufficient for me to inform him that, after Adams and his companions had returned him a thousand thanks, and told him where he might call to be repaid, they all sallied out of the house without any compliments from their hostess, or indeed without paying her any; Adams declaring he would take particular care never to call there again; and she on her side assuring them she wanted no such guests.

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