Joseph Andrews, by Henry Fielding

Chapter 16

The escape of the thief. Mr Adams’s disappointment. The arrival of two very extraordinary personages, and the introduction of parson Adams to parson Barnabas.

Barnabas and the surgeon, being returned, as we have said, to the inn, in order to convey the thief before the justice, were greatly concerned to find a small accident had happened, which somewhat disconcerted them; and this was no other than the thief’s escape, who had modestly withdrawn himself by night, declining all ostentation, and not chusing, in imitation of some great men, to distinguish himself at the expense of being pointed at.

When the company had retired the evening before, the thief was detained in a room where the constable, and one of the young fellows who took him, were planted as his guard. About the second watch a general complaint of drought was made, both by the prisoner and his keepers. Among whom it was at last agreed that the constable should remain on duty, and the young fellow call up the tapster; in which disposition the latter apprehended not the least danger, as the constable was well armed, and could besides easily summon him back to his assistance, if the prisoner made the least attempt to gain his liberty.

The young fellow had not long left the room before it came into the constable’s head that the prisoner might leap on him by surprize, and, thereby preventing him of the use of his weapons, especially the long staff in which he chiefly confided, might reduce the success of a struggle to a equal chance. He wisely, therefore, to prevent this inconvenience, slipt out of the room himself, and locked the door, waiting without with his staff in his hand, ready lifted to fell the unhappy prisoner, if by ill fortune he should attempt to break out.

But human life, as hath been discovered by some great man or other (for I would by no means be understood to affect the honour of making any such discovery), very much resembles a game at chess; for as in the latter, while a gamester is too attentive to secure himself very strongly on one side the board, he is apt to leave an unguarded opening on the other; so doth it often happen in life, and so did it happen on this occasion; for whilst the cautious constable with such wonderful sagacity had possessed himself of the door, he most unhappily forgot the window.

The thief, who played on the other side, no sooner perceived this opening than he began to move that way; and, finding the passage easy, he took with him the young fellow’s hat, and without any ceremony stepped into the street and made the best of his way.

The young fellow, returning with a double mug of strong beer, was a little surprized to find the constable at the door; but much more so when, the door being opened, he perceived the prisoner had made his escape, and which way. He threw down the beer, and, without uttering anything to the constable except a hearty curse or two, he nimbly leapt out of the window, and went again in pursuit of his prey, being very unwilling to lose the reward which he had assured himself of.

The constable hath not been discharged of suspicion on this account; it hath been said that, not being concerned in the taking the thief, he could not have been entitled to any part of the reward if he had been convicted; that the thief had several guineas in his pocket; that it was very unlikely he should have been guilty of such an oversight; that his pretence for leaving the room was absurd; that it was his constant maxim, that a wise man never refused money on any conditions; that at every election he always had sold his vote to both parties, &c.

But, notwithstanding these and many other such allegations, I am sufficiently convinced of his innocence; having been positively assured of it by those who received their informations from his own mouth; which, in the opinion of some moderns, is the best and indeed only evidence.

All the family were now up, and with many others assembled in the kitchen, where Mr Tow-wouse was in some tribulation; the surgeon having declared that by law he was liable to be indicted for the thief’s escape, as it was out of his house; he was a little comforted, however, by Mr Barnabas’s opinion, that as the escape was by night the indictment would not lie.

Mrs Tow-wouse delivered herself in the following words: “Sure never was such a fool as my husband; would any other person living have left a man in the custody of such a drunken drowsy blockhead as Tom Suckbribe?” (which was the constable’s name); “and if he could be indicted without any harm to his wife and children, I should be glad of it.” (Then the bell rung in Joseph’s room.) “Why Betty, John, Chamberlain, where the devil are you all? Have you no ears, or no conscience, not to tend the sick better? See what the gentleman wants. Why don’t you go yourself, Mr Tow-wouse? But any one may die for you; you have no more feeling than a deal board. If a man lived a fortnight in your house without spending a penny, you would never put him in mind of it. See whether he drinks tea or coffee for breakfast.” “Yes, my dear,” cried Tow-wouse. She then asked the doctor and Mr Barnabas what morning’s draught they chose, who answered, they had a pot of cyder-and at the fire; which we will leave them merry over, and return to Joseph.

He had rose pretty early this morning; but, though his wounds were far from threatening any danger, he was so sore with the bruises, that it was impossible for him to think of undertaking a journey yet; Mr Adams, therefore, whose stock was visibly decreased with the expenses of supper and breakfast, and which could not survive that day’s scoring, began to consider how it was possible to recruit it. At last he cried, “He had luckily hit on a sure method, and, though it would oblige him to return himself home together with Joseph, it mattered not much.” He then sent for Tow-wouse, and, taking him into another room, told him “he wanted to borrow three guineas, for which he would put ample security into his hands.” Tow-wouse, who expected a watch, or ring, or something of double the value, answered, “He believed he could furnish him.” Upon which Adams, pointing to his saddle-bag, told him, with a face and voice full of solemnity, “that there were in that bag no less than nine volumes of manuscript sermons, as well worth a hundred pounds as a shilling was worth twelve pence, and that he would deposit one of the volumes in his hands by way of pledge; not doubting but that he would have the honesty to return it on his repayment of the money; for otherwise he must be a very great loser, seeing that every volume would at least bring him ten pounds, as he had been informed by a neighbouring clergyman in the country; for,” said he, “as to my own part, having never yet dealt in printing, I do not pretend to ascertain the exact value of such things.”

Tow-wouse, who was a little surprized at the pawn, said (and not without some truth), “That he was no judge of the price of such kind of goods; and as for money, he really was very short.” Adams answered, “Certainly he would not scruple to lend him three guineas on what was undoubtedly worth at least ten.” The landlord replied, “He did not believe he had so much money in the house, and besides, he was to make up a sum. He was very confident the books were of much higher value, and heartily sorry it did not suit him.” He then cried out, “Coming sir!” though nobody called; and ran downstairs without any fear of breaking his neck.

Poor Adams was extremely dejected at this disappointment, nor knew he what further stratagem to try. He immediately applied to his pipe, his constant friend and comfort in his afflictions; and, leaning over the rails, he devoted himself to meditation, assisted by the inspiring fumes of tobacco.

He had on a nightcap drawn over his wig, and a short greatcoat, which half covered his cassock — a dress which, added to something comical enough in his countenance, composed a figure likely to attract the eyes of those who were not over given to observation.

Whilst he was smoaking his pipe in this posture, a coach and six, with a numerous attendance, drove into the inn. There alighted from the coach a young fellow and a brace of pointers, after which another young fellow leapt from the box, and shook the former by the hand; and both, together with the dogs, were instantly conducted by Mr Tow-wouse into an apartment; whither as they passed, they entertained themselves with the following short facetious dialogue:—

“You are a pretty fellow for a coachman, Jack!” says he from the coach; “you had almost overturned us just now.” — “Pox take you!” says the coachman; “if I had only broke your neck, it would have been saving somebody else the trouble; but I should have been sorry for the pointers.” — “Why, you son of a b — ” answered the other, “if nobody could shoot better than you, the pointers would be of no use.” — “D— n me,” says the coachman, “I will shoot with you five guineas a shot.” — “You be hanged,” says the other; “for five guineas you shall shoot at my a —.” — “Done,” says the coachman; “I’ll pepper you better than ever you was peppered by Jenny Bouncer.” — “Pepper your grandmother,” says the other: “Here’s Tow-wouse will let you shoot at him for a shilling a time.” — “I know his honour better,” cries Tow-wouse; “I never saw a surer shot at a partridge. Every man misses now and then; but if I could shoot half as well as his honour, I would desire no better livelihood than I could get by my gun.” — “Pox on you,” said the coachman, “you demolish more game now than your head’s worth. There’s a bitch, Tow-wouse: by G— she never blinked4 a bird in her life.” — “I have a puppy, not a year old, shall hunt with her for a hundred,” cries the other gentleman. — “Done,” says the coachman: “but you will be pox’d before you make the bett.” — “If you have a mind for a bett,” cries the coachman, “I will match my spotted dog with your white bitch for a hundred, play or pay.” — “Done,” says the other: “and I’ll run Baldface against Slouch with you for another.” — “No,” cries he from the box; “but I’ll venture Miss Jenny against Baldface, or Hannibal either.” — “Go to the devil,” cries he from the coach: “I will make every bett your own way, to be sure! I will match Hannibal with Slouch for a thousand, if you dare; and I say done first.”

4 To blink is a term used to signify the dog’s passing by a bird without pointing at it.

They were now arrived; and the reader will be very contented to leave them, and repair to the kitchen; where Barnabas, the surgeon, and an exciseman were smoaking their pipes over some cyder-and; and where the servants, who attended the two noble gentlemen we have just seen alight, were now arrived.

“Tom,” cries one of the footmen, “there’s parson Adams smoaking his pipe in the gallery.” — “Yes,” says Tom; “I pulled off my hat to him, and the parson spoke to me.”

“Is the gentleman a clergyman, then?” says Barnabas (for his cassock had been tied up when he arrived). “Yes, sir,” answered the footman; “and one there be but few like.” — “Aye,” said Barnabas; “if I had known it sooner, I should have desired his company; I would always shew a proper respect for the cloth: but what say you, doctor, shall we adjourn into a room, and invite him to take part of a bowl of punch?”

This proposal was immediately agreed to and executed; and parson Adams accepting the invitation, much civility passed between the two clergymen, who both declared the great honour they had for the cloth. They had not been long together before they entered into a discourse on small tithes, which continued a full hour, without the doctor or exciseman’s having one opportunity to offer a word.

It was then proposed to begin a general conversation, and the exciseman opened on foreign affairs; but a word unluckily dropping from one of them introduced a dissertation on the hardships suffered by the inferior clergy; which, after a long duration, concluded with bringing the nine volumes of sermons on the carpet.

Barnabas greatly discouraged poor Adams; he said, “The age was so wicked, that nobody read sermons: would you think it, Mr Adams?” said he, “I once intended to print a volume of sermons myself, and they had the approbation of two or three bishops; but what do you think a bookseller offered me?” — “Twelve guineas perhaps,” cried Adams. — “Not twelve pence, I assure you,” answered Barnabas: “nay, the dog refused me a Concordance in exchange. At last I offered to give him the printing them, for the sake of dedicating them to that very gentleman who just now drove his own coach into the inn; and, I assure you, he had the impudence to refuse my offer; by which means I lost a good living, that was afterwards given away in exchange for a pointer, to one who — but I will not say anything against the cloth. So you may guess, Mr Adams, what you are to expect; for if sermons would have gone down, I believe — I will not be vain; but to be concise with you, three bishops said they were the best that ever were writ: but indeed there are a pretty moderate number printed already, and not all sold yet.” — “Pray, sir,” said Adams, “to what do you think the numbers may amount?” — “Sir,” answered Barnabas, “a bookseller told me, he believed five thousand volumes at least.” — “Five thousand?” quoth the surgeon: “What can they be writ upon? I remember when I was a boy, I used to read one Tillotson’s sermons; and, I am sure, if a man practised half so much as is in one of those sermons, he will go to heaven.” — “Doctor,” cried Barnabas, “you have a prophane way of talking, for which I must reprove you. A man can never have his duty too frequently inculcated into him. And as for Tillotson, to be sure he was a good writer, and said things very well; but comparisons are odious; another man may write as well as he — I believe there are some of my sermons,” — and then he applied the candle to his pipe. — “And I believe there are some of my discourses,” cries Adams, “which the bishops would not think totally unworthy of being printed; and I have been informed I might procure a very large sum (indeed an immense one) on them.” — “I doubt that,” answered Barnabas: “however, if you desire to make some money of them, perhaps you may sell them by advertising the manuscript sermons of a clergyman lately deceased, all warranted originals, and never printed. And now I think of it, I should be obliged to you, if there be ever a funeral one among them, to lend it me; for I am this very day to preach a funeral sermon, for which I have not penned a line, though I am to have a double price.” — Adams answered, “He had but one, which he feared would not serve his purpose, being sacred to the memory of a magistrate, who had exerted himself very singularly in the preservation of the morality of his neighbours, insomuch that he had neither alehouse nor lewd woman in the parish where he lived.” — “No,” replied Barnabas, “that will not do quite so well; for the deceased, upon whose virtues I am to harangue, was a little too much addicted to liquor, and publickly kept a mistress. — I believe I must take a common sermon, and trust to my memory to introduce something handsome on him.” — “To your invention rather,” said the doctor: “your memory will be apter to put you out; for no man living remembers anything good of him.”

With such kind of spiritual discourse, they emptied the bowl of punch, paid their reckoning, and separated: Adams and the doctor went up to Joseph, parson Barnabas departed to celebrate the aforesaid deceased, and the exciseman descended into the cellar to gauge the vessels.

Joseph was now ready to sit down to a loin of mutton, and waited for Mr Adams, when he and the doctor came in. The doctor, having felt his pulse and examined his wounds, declared him much better, which he imputed to that sanative soporiferous draught, a medicine “whose virtues,” he said, “were never to be sufficiently extolled.” And great indeed they must be, if Joseph was so much indebted to them as the doctor imagined; since nothing more than those effluvia which escaped the cork could have contributed to his recovery; for the medicine had stood untouched in the window ever since its arrival.

Joseph passed that day, and the three following, with his friend Adams, in which nothing so remarkable happened as the swift progress of his recovery. As he had an excellent habit of body, his wounds were now almost healed; and his bruises gave him so little uneasiness, that he pressed Mr Adams to let him depart; told him he should never be able to return sufficient thanks for all his favours, but begged that he might no longer delay his journey to London.

Adams, notwithstanding the ignorance, as he conceived it, of Mr Tow-wouse, and the envy (for such he thought it) of Mr Barnabas, had great expectations from his sermons: seeing therefore Joseph in so good a way, he told him he would agree to his setting out the next morning in the stage-coach, that he believed he should have sufficient, after the reckoning paid, to procure him one day’s conveyance in it, and afterwards he would be able to get on on foot, or might be favoured with a lift in some neighbour’s waggon, especially as there was then to be a fair in the town whither the coach would carry him, to which numbers from his parish resorted — And as to himself, he agreed to proceed to the great city.

They were now walking in the inn-yard, when a fat, fair, short person rode in, and, alighting from his horse, went directly up to Barnabas, who was smoaking his pipe on a bench. The parson and the stranger shook one another very lovingly by the hand, and went into a room together.

The evening now coming on, Joseph retired to his chamber, whither the good Adams accompanied him, and took this opportunity to expatiate on the great mercies God had lately shown him, of which he ought not only to have the deepest inward sense, but likewise to express outward thankfulness for them. They therefore fell both on their knees, and spent a considerable time in prayer and thanksgiving.

They had just finished when Betty came in and told Mr Adams Mr Barnabas desired to speak to him on some business of consequence below-stairs. Joseph desired, if it was likely to detain him long, he would let him know it, that he might go to bed, which Adams promised, and in that case they wished one another good-night.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:54