Joseph Andrews, by Henry Fielding

Chapter 15

The arrival of Gaffar and Gammar Andrews, with another person not much expected; and a perfect solution of the difficulties raised by the pedlar.

As soon as Fanny was drest Joseph returned to her, and they had a long conversation together, the conclusion of which was, that, if they found themselves to be really brother and sister, they vowed a perpetual celibacy, and to live together all their days, and indulge a Platonic friendship for each other.

The company were all very merry at breakfast, and Joseph and Fanny rather more chearful than the preceding night. The Lady Booby produced the diamond button, which the beau most readily owned, and alledged that he was very subject to walk in his sleep. Indeed, he was far from being ashamed of his amour, and rather endeavoured to insinuate that more than was really true had passed between him and the fair Slipslop.

Their tea was scarce over when news came of the arrival of old Mr Andrews and his wife. They were immediately introduced, and kindly received by the Lady Booby, whose heart went now pit-a-pat, as did those of Joseph and Fanny. They felt, perhaps, little less anxiety in this interval than Oedipus himself, whilst his fate was revealing.

Mr Booby first opened the cause by informing the old gentleman that he had a child in the company more than he knew of, and, taking Fanny by the hand, told him, this was that daughter of his who had been stolen away by gypsies in her infancy. Mr Andrews, after expressing some astonishment, assured his honour that he had never lost a daughter by gypsies, nor ever had any other children than Joseph and Pamela. These words were a cordial to the two lovers; but had a different effect on Lady Booby. She ordered the pedlar to be called, who recounted his story as he had done before. — At the end of which, old Mrs Andrews, running to Fanny, embraced her, crying out, “She is, she is my child!” The company were all amazed at this disagreement between the man and his wife; and the blood had now forsaken the cheeks of the lovers, when the old woman, turning to her husband, who was more surprized than all the rest, and having a little recovered her own spirits, delivered herself as follows: “You may remember, my dear, when you went a serjeant to Gibraltar, you left me big with child; you stayed abroad, you know, upwards of three years. In your absence I was brought to bed, I verily believe, of this daughter, whom I am sure I have reason to remember, for I suckled her at this very breast till the day she was stolen from me. One afternoon, when the child was about a year, or a year and a half old, or thereabouts, two gypsy-women came to the door and offered to tell my fortune. One of them had a child in her lap. I showed them my hand, and desired to know if you was ever to come home again, which I remember as well as if it was but yesterday: they faithfully promised me you should. — I left the girl in the cradle and went to draw them a cup of liquor, the best I had: when I returned with the pot (I am sure I was not absent longer than whilst I am telling it to you) the women were gone. I was afraid they had stolen something, and looked and looked, but to no purpose, and, Heaven knows, I had very little for them to steal. At last, hearing the child cry in the cradle, I went to take it up — but, O the living! how was I surprized to find, instead of my own girl that I had put into the cradle, who was as fine a fat thriving child as you shall see in a summer’s day, a poor sickly boy, that did not seem to have an hour to live. I ran out, pulling my hair off and crying like any mad after the women, but never could hear a word of them from that day to this. When I came back the poor infant (which is our Joseph there, as stout as he now stands) lifted up its eyes upon me so piteously, that, to be sure, notwithstanding my passion, I could not find in my heart to do it any mischief. A neighbour of mine, happening to come in at the same time, and hearing the case, advised me to take care of this poor child, and God would perhaps one day restore me my own. Upon which I took the child up, and suckled it to be sure, all the world as if it had been born of my own natural body; and as true as I am alive, in a little time I loved the boy all to nothing as if it had been my own girl. — Well, as I was saying, times growing very hard, I having two children and nothing but my own work, which was little enough, God knows, to maintain them, was obliged to ask relief of the parish; but, instead of giving it me, they removed me, by justices’ warrants, fifteen miles, to the place where I now live, where I had not been long settled before you came home. Joseph (for that was the name I gave him myself — the Lord knows whether he was baptized or no, or by what name), Joseph, I say, seemed to me about five years old when you returned; for I believe he is two or three years older than our daughter here (for I am thoroughly convinced she is the same); and when you saw him you said he was a chopping boy, without ever minding his age; and so I, seeing you did not suspect anything of the matter, thought I might e’en as well keep it to myself, for fear you should not love him as well as I did. And all this is veritably true, and I will take my oath of it before any justice in the kingdom.”

The pedlar, who had been summoned by the order of Lady Booby, listened with the utmost attention to Gammar Andrews’s story; and, when she had finished, asked her if the supposititious child had no mark on its breast? To which she answered, “Yes, he had as fine a strawberry as ever grew in a garden.” This Joseph acknowledged, and, unbuttoning his coat, at the intercession of the company, showed to them. “Well,” says Gaffar Andrews, who was a comical sly old fellow, and very likely desired to have no more children than he could keep, “you have proved, I think, very plainly, that this boy doth not belong to us; but how are you certain that the girl is ours?” The parson then brought the pedlar forward, and desired him to repeat the story which he had communicated to him the preceding day at the ale-house; which he complied with, and related what the reader, as well as Mr Adams, hath seen before. He then confirmed, from his wife’s report, all the circumstances of the exchange, and of the strawberry on Joseph’s breast. At the repetition of the word strawberry, Adams, who had seen it without any emotion, started and cried, “Bless me! something comes into my head.” But before he had time to bring anything out a servant called him forth. When he was gone the pedlar assured Joseph that his parents were persons of much greater circumstances than those he had hitherto mistaken for such; for that he had been stolen from a gentleman’s house by those whom they call gypsies, and had been kept by them during a whole year, when, looking on him as in a dying condition, they had exchanged him for the other healthier child, in the manner before related. He said, As to the name of his father, his wife had either never known or forgot it; but that she had acquainted him he lived about forty miles from the place where the exchange had been made, and which way, promising to spare no pains in endeavouring with him to discover the place.

But Fortune, which seldom doth good or ill, or makes men happy or miserable, by halves, resolved to spare him this labour. The reader may please to recollect that Mr Wilson had intended a journey to the west, in which he was to pass through Mr Adams’s parish, and had promised to call on him. He was now arrived at the Lady Booby’s gates for that purpose, being directed thither from the parson’s house, and had sent in the servant whom we have above seen call Mr Adams forth. This had no sooner mentioned the discovery of a stolen child, and had uttered the word strawberry, than Mr Wilson, with wildness in his looks, and the utmost eagerness in his words, begged to be shewed into the room, where he entered without the least regard to any of the company but Joseph, and, embracing him with a complexion all pale and trembling, desired to see the mark on his breast; the parson followed him capering, rubbing his hands, and crying out, Hic est quem quaeris; inventus est, &c. Joseph complied with the request of Mr Wilson, who no sooner saw the mark than, abandoning himself to the most extravagant rapture of passion, he embraced Joseph with inexpressible ecstasy, and cried out in tears of joy, “I have discovered my son, I have him again in my arms!” Joseph was not sufficiently apprized yet to taste the same delight with his father (for so in reality he was); however, he returned some warmth to his embraces: but he no sooner perceived, from his father’s account, the agreement of every circumstance, of person, time, and place, than he threw himself at his feet, and, embracing his knees, with tears begged his blessing, which was given with much affection, and received with such respect, mixed with such tenderness on both sides, that it affected all present; but none so much as Lady Booby, who left the room in an agony, which was but too much perceived, and not very charitably accounted for by some of the company.

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