Joseph Andrews, by Henry Fielding

Chapter 13

The history, returning to the Lady Booby, gives some account of the terrible conflict in her breast between love and pride; with what happened on the present discovery.

The lady sat down with her company to dinner, but eat nothing. As soon as her cloth was removed she whispered Pamela that she was taken a little ill, and desired her to entertain her husband and beau Didapper. She then went up into her chamber, sent for Slipslop, threw herself on the bed in the agonies of love, rage, and despair; nor could she conceal these boiling passions longer without bursting. Slipslop now approached her bed, and asked how her ladyship did; but, instead of revealing her disorder, as she intended, she entered into a long encomium on the beauty and virtues of Joseph Andrews; ending, at last, with expressing her concern that so much tenderness should be thrown away on so despicable an object as Fanny. Slipslop, well knowing how to humour her mistress’s frenzy, proceeded to repeat, with exaggeration, if possible, all her mistress had said, and concluded with a wish that Joseph had been a gentleman, and that she could see her lady in the arms of such a husband. The lady then started from the bed, and, taking a turn or two across the room, cryed out, with a deep sigh, “Sure he would make any woman happy!” — “Your ladyship,” says she, “would be the happiest woman in the world with him. A fig for custom and nonsense! What ‘vails what people say? Shall I be afraid of eating sweetmeats because people may say I have a sweet tooth? If I had a mind to marry a man, all the world should not hinder me. Your ladyship hath no parents to tutelar your infections; besides, he is of your ladyship’s family now, and as good a gentleman as any in the country; and why should not a woman follow her mind as well as man? Why should not your ladyship marry the brother as well as your nephew the sister. I am sure, if it was a fragrant crime, I would not persuade your ladyship to it.” — “But, dear Slipslop,” answered the lady, “if I could prevail on myself to commit such a weakness, there is that cursed Fanny in the way, whom the idiot — O how I hate and despise him!” — “She! a little ugly mynx,” cries Slipslop; “leave her to me. I suppose your ladyship hath heard of Joseph’s fitting with one of Mr Didapper’s servants about her; and his master hath ordered them to carry her away by force this evening. I’ll take care they shall not want assistance. I was talking with this gentleman, who was below, just when your ladyship sent for me.” — “Go back,” says the Lady Booby, “this instant, for I expect Mr Didapper will soon be going. Do all you can; for I am resolved this wench shall not be in our family: I will endeavour to return to the company; but let me know as soon as she is carried off.” Slipslop went away; and her mistress began to arraign her own conduct in the following manner:—

“What am I doing? How do I suffer this passion to creep imperceptibly upon me? How many days are past since I could have submitted to ask myself the question? — Marry a footman! Distraction! Can I afterwards bear the eyes of my acquaintance? But I can retire from them; retire with one in whom I propose more happiness than the world without him can give me! Retire-to feed continually on beauties which my inflamed imagination sickens with eagerly gazing on; to satisfy every appetite, every desire, with their utmost wish. Ha! and do I doat thus on a footman? I despise, I detest my passion. — Yet why? Is he not generous, gentle, kind? — Kind! to whom? to the meanest wretch, a creature below my consideration. Doth he not — yes, he doth prefer her. Curse his beauties, and the little low heart that possesses them; which can basely descend to this despicable wench, and be ungratefully deaf to all the honours I do him. And can I then love this monster? No, I will tear his image from my bosom, tread on him, spurn him. I will have those pitiful charms, which now I despise, mangled in my sight; for I will not suffer the little jade I hate to riot in the beauties I contemn. No; though I despise him myself, though I would spurn him from my feet, was he to languish at them, no other should taste the happiness I scorn. Why do I say happiness? To me it would be misery. To sacrifice my reputation, my character, my rank in life, to the indulgence of a mean and a vile appetite! How I detest the thought! How much more exquisite is the pleasure resulting from the reflection of virtue and prudence than the faint relish of what flows from vice and folly! Whither did I suffer this improper, this mad passion to hurry me, only by neglecting to summon the aids of reason to my assistance? Reason, which hath now set before me my desires in their proper colours, and immediately helped me to expel them. Yes, I thank Heaven and my pride, I have now perfectly conquered this unworthy passion; and if there was no obstacle in its way, my pride would disdain any pleasures which could be the consequence of so base, so mean, so vulgar — ” Slipslop returned at this instant in a violent hurry, and with the utmost eagerness cryed out, “O madam! I have strange news. Tom the footman is just come from the George; where, it seems, Joseph and the rest of them are a jinketting; and he says there is a strange man who hath discovered that Fanny and Joseph are brother and sister.” — “How, Slipslop?” cries the lady, in a surprize. — “I had not time, madam,” cries Slipslop, “to enquire about particles, but Tom says it is most certainly true.”

This unexpected account entirely obliterated all those admirable reflections which the supreme power of reason had so wisely made just before. In short, when despair, which had more share in producing the resolutions of hatred we have seen taken, began to retreat, the lady hesitated a moment, and then, forgetting all the purport of her soliloquy, dismissed her woman again, with orders to bid Tom attend her in the parlour, whither she now hastened to acquaint Pamela with the news. Pamela said she could not believe it; for she had never heard that her mother had lost any child, or that she had ever had any more than Joseph and herself. The lady flew into a violent rage with her, and talked of upstarts and disowning relations who had so lately been on a level with her. Pamela made no answer; but her husband, taking up her cause, severely reprimanded his aunt for her behaviour to his wife: he told her, if it had been earlier in the evening she should not have staid a moment longer in her house; that he was convinced, if this young woman could be proved her sister, she would readily embrace her as such, and he himself would do the same. He then desired the fellow might be sent for, and the young woman with him, which Lady Booby immediately ordered; and, thinking proper to make some apology to Pamela for what she had said, it was readily accepted, and all things reconciled.

The pedlar now attended, as did Fanny and Joseph, who would not quit her; the parson likewise was induced, not only by curiosity, of which he had no small portion, but his duty, as he apprehended it, to follow them; for he continued all the way to exhort them, who were now breaking their hearts, to offer up thanksgivings, and be joyful for so miraculous an escape.

When they arrived at Booby–Hall they were presently called into the parlour, where the pedlar repeated the same story he had told before, and insisted on the truth of every circumstance; so that all who heard him were extremely well satisfied of the truth, except Pamela, who imagined, as she had never heard either of her parents mention such an accident, that it must be certainly false; and except the Lady Booby, who suspected the falsehood of the story from her ardent desire that it should be true; and Joseph, who feared its truth, from his earnest wishes that it might prove false.

Mr Booby now desired them all to suspend their curiosity and absolute belief or disbelief till the next morning, when he expected old Mr Andrews and his wife to fetch himself and Pamela home in his coach, and then they might be certain of certainly knowing the truth or falsehood of this relation; in which, he said, as there were many strong circumstances to induce their credit, so he could not perceive any interest the pedlar could have in inventing it, or in endeavouring to impose such a falsehood on them.

The Lady Booby, who was very little used to such company, entertained them all — viz. her nephew, his wife, her brother and sister, the beau, and the parson, with great good humour at her own table. As to the pedlar, she ordered him to be made as welcome as possible by her servants. All the company in the parlour, except the disappointed lovers, who sat sullen and silent, were full of mirth; for Mr Booby had prevailed on Joseph to ask Mr Didapper’s pardon, with which he was perfectly satisfied. Many jokes passed between the beau and the parson, chiefly on each other’s dress; these afforded much diversion to the company. Pamela chid her brother Joseph for the concern which he exprest at discovering a new sister. She said, if he loved Fanny as he ought, with a pure affection, he had no reason to lament being related to her. — Upon which Adams began to discourse on Platonic love; whence he made a quick transition to the joys in the next world, and concluded with strongly asserting that there was no such thing as pleasure in this. At which Pamela and her husband smiled on one another.

This happy pair proposing to retire (for no other person gave the least symptom of desiring rest), they all repaired to several beds provided for them in the same house; nor was Adams himself suffered to go home, it being a stormy night. Fanny indeed often begged she might go home with the parson; but her stay was so strongly insisted on, that she at last, by Joseph’s advice, consented.

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