Joseph Andrews, by Henry Fielding

Chapter 4

A description of Mr Wilson’s way of living. The tragical adventure of the dog, and other grave matters.

The gentleman returned with the bottle; and Adams and he sat some time silent, when the former started up, and cried, “No, that won’t do.” The gentleman inquired into his meaning; he answered, “He had been considering that it was possible the late famous king Theodore might have been that very son whom he had lost;” but added, “that his age could not answer that imagination. However,” says he, “G— disposes all things for the best; and very probably he may be some great man, or duke, and may, one day or other, revisit you in that capacity.” The gentleman answered, he should know him amongst ten thousand, for he had a mark on his left breast of a strawberry, which his mother had given him by longing for that fruit.

That beautiful young lady the Morning now rose from her bed, and with a countenance blooming with fresh youth and sprightliness, like Miss —— 7, with soft dews hanging on her pouting lips, began to take her early walk over the eastern hills; and presently after, that gallant person the Sun stole softly from his wife’s chamber to pay his addresses to her; when the gentleman asked his guest if he would walk forth and survey his little garden, which he readily agreed to, and Joseph at the same time awaking from a sleep in which he had been two hours buried, went with them. No parterres, no fountains, no statues, embellished this little garden. Its only ornament was a short walk, shaded on each side by a filbert-hedge, with a small alcove at one end, whither in hot weather the gentleman and his wife used to retire and divert themselves with their children, who played in the walk before them. But, though vanity had no votary in this little spot, here was variety of fruit and everything useful for the kitchen, which was abundantly sufficient to catch the admiration of Adams, who told the gentleman he had certainly a good gardener. Sir, answered he, that gardener is now before you: whatever you see here is the work solely of my own hands. Whilst I am providing necessaries for my table, I likewise procure myself an appetite for them. In fair seasons I seldom pass less than six hours of the twenty-four in this place, where I am not idle; and by these means I have been able to preserve my health ever since my arrival here, without assistance from physic. Hither I generally repair at the dawn, and exercise myself whilst my wife dresses her children and prepares our breakfast; after which we are seldom asunder during the residue of the day, for, when the weather will not permit them to accompany me here, I am usually within with them; for I am neither ashamed of conversing with my wife nor of playing with my children: to say the truth, I do not perceive that inferiority of understanding which the levity of rakes, the dulness of men of business, or the austerity of the learned, would persuade us of in women. As for my woman, I declare I have found none of my own sex capable of making juster observations on life, or of delivering them more agreeably; nor do I believe any one possessed of a faithfuller or braver friend. And sure as this friendship is sweetened with more delicacy and tenderness, so is it confirmed by dearer pledges than can attend the closest male alliance; for what union can be so fast as our common interest in the fruits of our embraces? Perhaps, sir, you are not yourself a father; if you are not, be assured you cannot conceive the delight I have in my little ones. Would you not despise me if you saw me stretched on the ground, and my children playing round me? “I should reverence the sight,” quoth Adams; “I myself am now the father of six, and have been of eleven, and I can say I never scourged a child of my own, unless as his schoolmaster, and then have felt every stroke on my own posteriors. And as to what you say concerning women, I have often lamented my own wife did not understand Greek.” — The gentleman smiled, and answered, he would not be apprehended to insinuate that his own had an understanding above the care of her family; on the contrary, says he, my Harriet, I assure you, is a notable housewife, and few gentlemen’s housekeepers understand cookery or confectionery better; but these are arts which she hath no great occasion for now: however, the wine you commended so much last night at supper was of her own making, as is indeed all the liquor in my house, except my beer, which falls to my province. “And I assure you it is as excellent,” quoth Adams, “as ever I tasted.” We formerly kept a maid-servant, but since my girls have been growing up she is unwilling to indulge them in idleness; for as the fortunes I shall give them will be very small, we intend not to breed them above the rank they are likely to fill hereafter, nor to teach them to despise or ruin a plain husband. Indeed, I could wish a man of my own temper, and a retired life, might fall to their lot; for I have experienced that calm serene happiness, which is seated in content, is inconsistent with the hurry and bustle of the world. He was proceeding thus when the little things, being just risen, ran eagerly towards him and asked him blessing. They were shy to the strangers, but the eldest acquainted her father, that her mother and the young gentlewoman were up, and that breakfast was ready. They all went in, where the gentleman was surprized at the beauty of Fanny, who had now recovered herself from her fatigue, and was entirely clean drest; for the rogues who had taken away her purse had left her her bundle. But if he was so much amazed at the beauty of this young creature, his guests were no less charmed at the tenderness which appeared in the behaviour of the husband and wife to each other, and to their children, and at the dutiful and affectionate behaviour of these to their parents. These instances pleased the well-disposed mind of Adams equally with the readiness which they exprest to oblige their guests, and their forwardness to offer them the best of everything in their house; and what delighted him still more was an instance or two of their charity; for whilst they were at breakfast the good woman was called for to assist her sick neighbour, which she did with some cordials made for the public use, and the good man went into his garden at the same time to supply another with something which he wanted thence, for they had nothing which those who wanted it were not welcome to. These good people were in the utmost cheerfulness, when they heard the report of a gun, and immediately afterwards a little dog, the favourite of the eldest daughter, came limping in all bloody and laid himself at his mistress’s feet: the poor girl, who was about eleven years old, burst into tears at the sight; and presently one of the neighbours came in and informed them that the young squire, the son of the lord of the manor, had shot him as he past by, swearing at the same time he would prosecute the master of him for keeping a spaniel, for that he had given notice he would not suffer one in the parish. The dog, whom his mistress had taken into her lap, died in a few minutes, licking her hand. She exprest great agony at his loss, and the other children began to cry for their sister’s misfortune; nor could Fanny herself refrain. Whilst the father and mother attempted to comfort her, Adams grasped his crabstick and would have sallied out after the squire had not Joseph withheld him. He could not however bridle his tongue — he pronounced the word rascal with great emphasis; said he deserved to be hanged more than a highwayman, and wished he had the scourging him. The mother took her child, lamenting and carrying the dead favourite in her arms, out of the room, when the gentleman said this was the second time this squire had endeavoured to kill the little wretch, and had wounded him smartly once before; adding, he could have no motive but ill-nature, for the little thing, which was not near as big as one’s fist, had never been twenty yards from the house in the six years his daughter had had it. He said he had done nothing to deserve this usage, but his father had too great a fortune to contend with: that he was as absolute as any tyrant in the universe, and had killed all the dogs and taken away all the guns in the neighbourhood; and not only that, but he trampled down hedges and rode over corn and gardens, with no more regard than if they were the highway. “I wish I could catch him in my garden,” said Adams, “though I would rather forgive him riding through my house than such an ill-natured act as this.”

The cheerfulness of their conversation being interrupted by this accident, in which the guests could be of no service to their kind entertainer; and as the mother was taken up in administering consolation to the poor girl, whose disposition was too good hastily to forget the sudden loss of her little favourite, which had been fondling with her a few minutes before; and as Joseph and Fanny were impatient to get home and begin those previous ceremonies to their happiness which Adams had insisted on, they now offered to take their leave. The gentleman importuned them much to stay dinner; but when he found their eagerness to depart he summoned his wife; and accordingly, having performed all the usual ceremonies of bows and curtsies more pleasant to be seen than to be related, they took their leave, the gentleman and his wife heartily wishing them a good journey, and they as heartily thanking them for their kind entertainment. They then departed, Adams declaring that this was the manner in which the people had lived in the golden age.

7 Whoever the reader pleases.

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