Joseph Andrews, by Henry Fielding

Chapter 16

A very curious adventure, in which Mr Adams gave a much greater instance of the honest simplicity of his heart, than of his experience in the ways of this world.

Our travellers had walked about two miles from that inn, which they had more reason to have mistaken for a castle than Don Quixote ever had any of those in which he sojourned, seeing they had met with such difficulty in escaping out of its walls, when they came to a parish, and beheld a sign of invitation hanging out. A gentleman sat smoaking a pipe at the door, of whom Adams inquired the road, and received so courteous and obliging an answer, accompanied with so smiling a countenance, that the good parson, whose heart was naturally disposed to love and affection, began to ask several other questions; particularly the name of the parish, and who was the owner of a large house whose front they then had in prospect. The gentleman answered as obligingly as before; and as to the house, acquainted him it was his own. He then proceeded in the following manner: “Sir, I presume by your habit you are a clergyman; and as you are travelling on foot I suppose a glass of good beer will not be disagreeable to you; and I can recommend my landlord’s within as some of the best in all this country. What say you, will you halt a little and let us take a pipe together? there is no better tobacco in the kingdom.” This proposal was not displeasing to Adams, who had allayed his thirst that day with no better liquor than what Mrs Trulliber’s cellar had produced; and which was indeed little superior, either in richness or flavour, to that which distilled from those grains her generous husband bestowed on his hogs. Having, therefore, abundantly thanked the gentleman for his kind invitation, and bid Joseph and Fanny follow him, he entered the alehouse, where a large loaf and cheese and a pitcher of beer, which truly answered the character given of it, being set before them, the three travellers fell to eating, with appetites infinitely more voracious than are to be found at the most exquisite eating-houses in the parish of St. James’s.

The gentleman expressed great delight in the hearty and cheerful behaviour of Adams; and particularly in the familiarity with which he conversed with Joseph and Fanny, whom he often called his children; a term he explained to mean no more than his parishioners; saying, “He looked on all those whom God had intrusted to his care to stand to him in that relation.” The gentleman, shaking him by the hand, highly applauded those sentiments. “They are, indeed,” says he, “the true principles of a Christian divine; and I heartily wish they were universal; but, on the contrary, I am sorry to say the parson of our parish, instead of esteeming his poor parishioners as a part of his family, seems rather to consider them as not of the same species with himself. He seldom speaks to any, unless some few of the richest of us; nay, indeed, he will not move his hat to the others. I often laugh when I behold him on Sundays strutting along the churchyard like a turkey-cock through rows of his parishioners, who bow to him with as much submission, and are as unregarded, as a set of servile courtiers by the proudest prince in Christendom. But if such temporal pride is ridiculous, surely the spiritual is odious and detestable; if such a puffed — up empty human bladder, strutting in princely robes, justly moves one’s derision, surely in the habit of a priest it must raise our scorn.”

“Doubtless,” answered Adams, “your opinion is right; but I hope such examples are rare. The clergy whom I have the honour to know maintain a different behaviour; and you will allow me, sir, that the readiness which too many of the laity show to contemn the order may be one reason of their avoiding too much humility.” “Very true, indeed,” says the gentleman; “I find, sir, you are a man of excellent sense, and am happy in this opportunity of knowing you; perhaps our accidental meeting may not be disadvantageous to you neither. At present I shall only say to you that the incumbent of this living is old and infirm, and that it is in my gift. Doctor, give me your hand; and assure yourself of it at his decease.” Adams told him, “He was never more confounded in his life than at his utter incapacity to make any return to such noble and unmerited generosity.” “A mere trifle, sir,” cries the gentleman, “scarce worth your acceptance; a little more than three hundred a year. I wish it was double the value for your sake.” Adams bowed, and cried from the emotions of his gratitude; when the other asked him, “If he was married, or had any children, besides those in the spiritual sense he had mentioned.” “Sir,” replied the parson, “I have a wife and six at your service.” “That is unlucky,” says the gentleman; “for I would otherwise have taken you into my own house as my chaplain; however, I have another in the parish (for the parsonage-house is not good enough), which I will furnish for you. Pray, does your wife understand a dairy?” “I can’t profess she does,” says Adams. “I am sorry for it,” quoth the gentleman; “I would have given you half-a-dozen cows, and very good grounds to have maintained them.” “Sir,” said Adams, in an ecstasy, “you are too liberal; indeed you are.” “Not at all,” cries the gentleman: “I esteem riches only as they give me an opportunity of doing good; and I never saw one whom I had a greater inclination to serve.” At which words he shook him heartily by the hand, and told him he had sufficient room in his house to entertain him and his friends. Adams begged he might give him no such trouble; that they could be very well accommodated in the house where they were; forgetting they had not a sixpenny piece among them. The gentleman would not be denied; and, informing himself how far they were travelling, he said it was too long a journey to take on foot, and begged that they would favour him by suffering him to lend them a servant and horses; adding, withal, that, if they would do him the pleasure of their company only two days, he would furnish them with his coach and six. Adams, turning to Joseph, said, “How lucky is this gentleman’s goodness to you, who I am afraid would be scarce able to hold out on your lame leg!” and then, addressing the person who made him these liberal promises, after much bowing, he cried out, “Blessed be the hour which first introduced me to a man of your charity! you are indeed a Christian of the true primitive kind, and an honour to the country wherein you live. I would willingly have taken a pilgrimage to the Holy Land to have beheld you; for the advantages which we draw from your goodness give me little pleasure, in comparison of what I enjoy for your own sake when I consider the treasures you are by these means laying up for yourself in a country that passeth not away. We will therefore, most generous sir, accept your goodness, as well the entertainment you have so kindly offered us at your house this evening, as the accommodation of your horses tomorrow morning.” He then began to search for his hat, as did Joseph for his; and both they and Fanny were in order of departure, when the gentleman, stopping short, and seeming to meditate by himself for the space of about a minute, exclaimed thus: “Sure never anything was so unlucky; I had forgot that my house-keeper was gone abroad, and hath locked up all my rooms; indeed, I would break them open for you, but shall not be able to furnish you with a bed; for she has likewise put away all my linen. I am glad it entered into my head before I had given you the trouble of walking there; besides, I believe you will find better accommodations here than you expected. — Landlord, you can provide good beds for these people, can’t you?” “Yes, and please your worship,” cries the host, “and such as no lord or justice of the peace in the kingdom need be ashamed to lie in.” “I am heartily sorry,” says the gentleman, “for this disappointment. I am resolved I will never suffer her to carry away the keys again.” “Pray, sir, let it not make you uneasy,” cries Adams; “we shall do very well here; and the loan of your horses is a favour we shall be incapable of making any return to.” “Ay!” said the squire, “the horses shall attend you here at what hour in the morning you please;” and now, after many civilities too tedious to enumerate, many squeezes by the hand, with most affectionate looks and smiles at each other, and after appointing the horses at seven the next morning, the gentleman took his leave of them, and departed to his own house. Adams and his companions returned to the table, where the parson smoaked another pipe, and then they all retired to rest.

Mr Adams rose very early, and called Joseph out of his bed, between whom a very fierce dispute ensued, whether Fanny should ride behind Joseph, or behind the gentleman’s servant; Joseph insisting on it that he was perfectly recovered, and was as capable of taking care of Fanny as any other person could be. But Adams would not agree to it, and declared he would not trust her behind him; for that he was weaker than he imagined himself to be.

This dispute continued a long time, and had begun to be very hot, when a servant arrived from their good friend, to acquaint them that he was unfortunately prevented from lending them any horses; for that his groom had, unknown to him, put his whole stable under a course of physic.

This advice presently struck the two disputants dumb: Adams cried out, “Was ever anything so unlucky as this poor gentleman? I protest I am more sorry on his account than my own. You see, Joseph, how this good-natured man is treated by his servants; one locks up his linen, another physics his horses, and I suppose, by his being at this house last night, the butler had locked up his cellar. Bless us! how good-nature is used in this world! I protest I am more concerned on his account than my own.” “So am not I,” cries Joseph; “not that I am much troubled about walking on foot; all my concern is, how we shall get out of the house, unless God sends another pedlar to redeem us. But certainly this gentleman has such an affection for you, that he would lend you a larger sum than we owe here, which is not above four or five shillings.” “Very true, child,” answered Adams; “I will write a letter to him, and will even venture to solicit him for three half-crowns; there will be no harm in having two or three shillings in our pockets; as we have full forty miles to travel, we may possibly have occasion for them.”

Fanny being now risen, Joseph paid her a visit, and left Adams to write his letter, which having finished, he despatched a boy with it to the gentleman, and then seated himself by the door, lighted his pipe, and betook himself to meditation.

The boy staying longer than seemed to be necessary, Joseph, who with Fanny was now returned to the parson, expressed some apprehensions that the gentleman’s steward had locked up his purse too. To which Adams answered, “It might very possibly be, and he should wonder at no liberties which the devil might put into the head of a wicked servant to take with so worthy a master;” but added, “that, as the sum was so small, so noble a gentleman would be easily able to procure it in the parish, though he had it not in his own pocket. Indeed,” says he, “if it was four or five guineas, or any such large quantity of money, it might be a different matter.”

They were now sat down to breakfast over some toast and ale, when the boy returned and informed them that the gentleman was not at home. “Very well!” cries Adams; “but why, child, did you not stay till his return? Go back again, my good boy, and wait for his coming home; he cannot be gone far, as his horses are all sick; and besides, he had no intention to go abroad, for he invited us to spend this day and tomorrow at his house. Therefore go back, child, and tarry till his return home.” The messenger departed, and was back again with great expedition, bringing an account that the gentleman was gone a long journey, and would not be at home again this month. At these words Adams seemed greatly confounded, saying, “This must be a sudden accident, as the sickness or death of a relation or some such unforeseen misfortune;” and then, turning to Joseph, cried, “I wish you had reminded me to have borrowed this money last night.” Joseph, smiling, answered, “He was very much deceived if the gentleman would not have found some excuse to avoid lending it. — I own,” says he, “I was never much pleased with his professing so much kindness for you at first sight; for I have heard the gentlemen of our cloth in London tell many such stories of their masters. But when the boy brought the message back of his not being at home, I presently knew what would follow; for, whenever a man of fashion doth not care to fulfil his promises, the custom is to order his servants that he will never be at home to the person so promised. In London they call it denying him. I have myself denied Sir Thomas Booby above a hundred times, and when the man hath danced attendance for about a month or sometimes longer, he is acquainted in the end that the gentleman is gone out of town and could do nothing in the business.” — “Good Lord!” says Adams, “what wickedness is there in the Christian world! I profess almost equal to what I have read of the heathens. But surely, Joseph, your suspicions of this gentleman must be unjust, for what a silly fellow must he be who would do the devil’s work for nothing! and canst thou tell me any interest he could possibly propose to himself by deceiving us in his professions?” — “It is not for me,” answered Joseph, “to give reasons for what men do, to a gentleman of your learning.” — “You say right,” quoth Adams; “knowledge of men is only to be learned from books; Plato and Seneca for that; and those are authors, I am afraid, child, you never read.” — “Not I, sir, truly,” answered Joseph; “all I know is, it is a maxim among the gentlemen of our cloth, that those masters who promise the most perform the least; and I have often heard them say they have found the largest vails in those families where they were not promised any. But, sir, instead of considering any farther these matters, it would be our wisest way to contrive some method of getting out of this house; for the generous gentleman, instead of doing us any service, hath left us the whole reckoning to pay.” Adams was going to answer, when their host came in, and, with a kind of jeering smile, said, “Well, masters! the squire hath not sent his horses for you yet. Laud help me! how easily some folks make promises!” — “How!” says Adams; “have you ever known him do anything of this kind before?” — “Ay! marry have I,” answered the host: “it is no business of mine, you know, sir, to say anything to a gentleman to his face; but now he is not here, I will assure you, he hath not his fellow within the three next market-towns. I own I could not help laughing when I heard him offer you the living, for thereby hangs a good jest. I thought he would have offered you my house next, for one is no more his to dispose of than the other.” At these words Adams, blessing himself, declared, “He had never read of such a monster. But what vexes me most,” says he, “is, that he hath decoyed us into running up a long debt with you, which we are not able to pay, for we have no money about us, and, what is worse, live at such a distance, that if you should trust us, I am afraid you would lose your money for want of our finding any conveniency of sending it.” — “Trust you, master!” says the host, “that I will with all my heart. I honour the clergy too much to deny trusting one of them for such a trifle; besides, I like your fear of never paying me. I have lost many a debt in my lifetime, but was promised to be paid them all in a very short time. I will score this reckoning for the novelty of it. It is the first, I do assure you, of its kind. But what say you, master, shall we have t’other pot before we part? It will waste but a little chalk more, and if you never pay me a shilling the loss will not ruin me.” Adams liked the invitation very well, especially as it was delivered with so hearty an accent. He shook his host by the hand, and thanking him, said, “He would tarry another pot rather for the pleasure of such worthy company than for the liquor;” adding, “he was glad to find some Christians left in the kingdom, for that he almost began to suspect that he was sojourning in a country inhabited only by Jews and Turks.”

The kind host produced the liquor, and Joseph with Fanny retired into the garden, where, while they solaced themselves with amorous discourse, Adams sat down with his host; and, both filling their glasses, and lighting their pipes, they began that dialogue which the reader will find in the next chapter.

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