Joseph Andrews, by Henry Fielding

Chapter 3

The opinion of two lawyers concerning the same gentleman, with Mr Adams’s inquiry into the religion of his host.

He had just entered the house, and called for his pint, and seated himself, when two horsemen came to the door, and, fastening their horses to the rails, alighted. They said there was a violent shower of rain coming on, which they intended to weather there, and went into a little room by themselves, not perceiving Mr Adams.

One of these immediately asked the other, “If he had seen a more comical adventure a great while?” Upon which the other said, “He doubted whether, by law, the landlord could justify detaining the horse for his corn and hay.” But the former answered, “Undoubtedly he can; it is an adjudged case, and I have known it tried.”

Adams, who, though he was, as the reader may suspect, a little inclined to forgetfulness, never wanted more than a hint to remind him, overhearing their discourse, immediately suggested to himself that this was his own horse, and that he had forgot to pay for him, which, upon inquiry, he was certified of by the gentlemen; who added, that the horse was likely to have more rest than food, unless he was paid for.

The poor parson resolved to return presently to the inn, though he knew no more than Joseph how to procure his horse his liberty; he was, however, prevailed on to stay under covert, till the shower, which was now very violent, was over.

The three travellers then sat down together over a mug of good beer; when Adams, who had observed a gentleman’s house as he passed along the road, inquired to whom it belonged; one of the horsemen had no sooner mentioned the owner’s name, than the other began to revile him in the most opprobrious terms. The English language scarce affords a single reproachful word, which he did not vent on this occasion. He charged him likewise with many particular facts. He said, “He no more regarded a field of wheat when he was hunting, than he did the highway; that he had injured several poor farmers by trampling their corn under his horse’s heels; and if any of them begged him with the utmost submission to refrain, his horsewhip was always ready to do them justice.” He said, “That he was the greatest tyrant to the neighbours in every other instance, and would not suffer a farmer to keep a gun, though he might justify it by law; and in his own family so cruel a master, that he never kept a servant a twelvemonth. In his capacity as a justice,” continued he, “he behaves so partially, that he commits or acquits just as he is in the humour, without any regard to truth or evidence; the devil may carry any one before him for me; I would rather be tried before some judges, than be a prosecutor before him: if I had an estate in the neighbourhood, I would sell it for half the value rather than live near him.”

Adams shook his head, and said, “He was sorry such men were suffered to proceed with impunity, and that riches could set any man above the law.” The reviler, a little after, retiring into the yard, the gentleman who had first mentioned his name to Adams began to assure him “that his companion was a prejudiced person. It is true,” says he, “perhaps, that he may have sometimes pursued his game over a field of corn, but he hath always made the party ample satisfaction: that so far from tyrannising over his neighbours, or taking away their guns, he himself knew several farmers not qualified, who not only kept guns, but killed game with them; that he was the best of masters to his servants, and several of them had grown old in his service; that he was the best justice of peace in the kingdom, and, to his certain knowledge, had decided many difficult points, which were referred to him, with the greatest equity and the highest wisdom; and he verily believed, several persons would give a year’s purchase more for an estate near him, than under the wings of any other great man.” He had just finished his encomium when his companion returned and acquainted him the storm was over. Upon which they presently mounted their horses and departed.

Adams, who was in the utmost anxiety at those different characters of the same person, asked his host if he knew the gentleman: for he began to imagine they had by mistake been speaking of two several gentlemen. “No, no, master,” answered the host (a shrewd, cunning fellow); “I know the gentleman very well of whom they have been speaking, as I do the gentlemen who spoke of him. As for riding over other men’s corn, to my knowledge he hath not been on horseback these two years. I never heard he did any injury of that kind; and as to making reparation, he is not so free of his money as that comes to neither. Nor did I ever hear of his taking away any man’s gun; nay, I know several who have guns in their houses; but as for killing game with them, no man is stricter; and I believe he would ruin any who did. You heard one of the gentlemen say he was the worst master in the world, and the other that he is the best; but for my own part, I know all his servants, and never heard from any of them that he was either one or the other.” — “Aye! aye!” says Adams; “and how doth he behave as a justice, pray?” — “Faith, friend,” answered the host, “I question whether he is in the commission; the only cause I have heard he hath decided a great while, was one between those very two persons who just went out of this house; and I am sure he determined that justly, for I heard the whole matter.” — “Which did He decide it in favour of?” quoth Adams. — “I think I need not answer that question,” cried the host, “after the different characters you have heard of him. It is not my business to contradict gentlemen while they are drinking in my house; but I knew neither of them spoke a syllable of truth.” — “God forbid!” said Adams, “that men should arrive at such a pitch of wickedness to belye the character of their neighbour from a little private affection, or, what is infinitely worse, a private spite. I rather believe we have mistaken them, and they mean two other persons; for there are many houses on the road.” — “Why, prithee, friend,” cries the host, “dost thou pretend never to have told a lye in thy life?” — “Never a malicious one, I am certain,” answered Adams, “nor with a design to injure the reputation of any man living.” — “Pugh! malicious; no, no,” replied the host; “not malicious with a design to hang a man, or bring him into trouble; but surely, out of love to oneself, one must speak better of a friend than an enemy.” — “Out of love to yourself, you should confine yourself to truth,” says Adams, “for by doing otherwise you injure the noblest part of yourself, your immortal soul. I can hardly believe any man such an idiot to risque the loss of that by any trifling gain, and the greatest gain in this world is but dirt in comparison of what shall be revealed hereafter.” Upon which the host, taking up the cup, with a smile, drank a health to hereafter; adding, “He was for something present.” — “Why,” says Adams very gravely, “do not you believe another world?” To which the host answered, “Yes; he was no atheist.” — “And you believe you have an immortal soul?” cries Adams. He answered, “God forbid he should not.” — “And heaven and hell?” said the parson. The host then bid him “not to profane; for those were things not to be mentioned nor thought of but in church.” Adams asked him, “Why he went to church, if what he learned there had no influence on his conduct in life?” “I go to church,” answered the host, “to say my prayers and behave godly.” — “And dost not thou,” cried Adams, “believe what thou hearest at church?” — “Most part of it, master,” returned the host. “And dost not thou then tremble,” cries Adams, “at the thought of eternal punishment?” — “As for that, master,” said he, “I never once thought about it; but what signifies talking about matters so far off? The mug is out, shall I draw another?”

Whilst he was going for that purpose, a stage-coach drove up to the door. The coachman coming into the house was asked by the mistress what passengers he had in his coach? “A parcel of squinny-gut b — s,” says he; “I have a good mind to overturn them; you won’t prevail upon them to drink anything, I assure you.” Adams asked him, “If he had not seen a young man on horseback on the road” (describing Joseph). “Aye,” said the coachman, “a gentlewoman in my coach that is his acquaintance redeemed him and his horse; he would have been here before this time, had not the storm driven him to shelter.” “God bless her!” said Adams, in a rapture; nor could he delay walking out to satisfy himself who this charitable woman was; but what was his surprize when he saw his old acquaintance, Madam Slipslop? Hers indeed was not so great, because she had been informed by Joseph that he was on the road. Very civil were the salutations on both sides; and Mrs Slipslop rebuked the hostess for denying the gentleman to be there when she asked for him; but indeed the poor woman had not erred designedly; for Mrs Slipslop asked for a clergyman, and she had unhappily mistaken Adams for a person travelling to a neighbouring fair with the thimble and button, or some other such operation; for he marched in a swinging great but short white coat with black buttons, a short wig, and a hat which, so far from having a black hatband, had nothing black about it.

Joseph was now come up, and Mrs Slipslop would have had him quit his horse to the parson, and come himself into the coach; but he absolutely refused, saying, he thanked Heaven he was well enough recovered to be very able to ride; and added, he hoped he knew his duty better than to ride in a coach while Mr Adams was on horseback.

Mrs Slipslop would have persisted longer, had not a lady in the coach put a short end to the dispute, by refusing to suffer a fellow in a livery to ride in the same coach with herself; so it was at length agreed that Adams should fill the vacant place in the coach, and Joseph should proceed on horseback.

They had not proceeded far before Mrs Slipslop, addressing herself to the parson, spoke thus:— “There hath been a strange alteration in our family, Mr Adams, since Sir Thomas’s death.” “A strange alteration indeed,” says Adams, “as I gather from some hints which have dropped from Joseph.” — “Aye,” says she, “I could never have believed it; but the longer one lives in the world, the more one sees. So Joseph hath given you hints.” “But of what nature will always remain a perfect secret with me,” cries the parson: “he forced me to promise before he would communicate anything. I am indeed concerned to find her ladyship behave in so unbecoming a manner. I always thought her in the main a good lady, and should never have suspected her of thoughts so unworthy a Christian, and with a young lad her own servant.” “These things are no secrets to me, I assure you,” cries Slipslop, “and I believe they will be none anywhere shortly; for ever since the boy’s departure, she hath behaved more like a mad woman than anything else.” “Truly, I am heartily concerned,” says Adams, “for she was a good sort of a lady. Indeed, I have often wished she had attended a little more constantly at the service, but she hath done a great deal of good in the parish.” “O Mr Adams,” says Slipslop, “people that don’t see all, often know nothing. Many things have been given away in our family, I do assure you, without her knowledge. I have heard you say in the pulpit we ought not to brag; but indeed I can’t avoid saying, if she had kept the keys herself, the poor would have wanted many a cordial which I have let them have. As for my late master, he was as worthy a man as ever lived, and would have done infinite good if he had not been controlled; but he loved a quiet life, Heaven rest his soul! I am confident he is there, and enjoys a quiet life, which some folks would not allow him here.” — Adams answered, “He had never heard this before, and was mistaken if she herself (for he remembered she used to commend her mistress and blame her master) had not formerly been of another opinion.” “I don’t know,” replied she, “what I might once think; but now I am confidous matters are as I tell you; the world will shortly see who hath been deceived; for my part, I say nothing, but that it is wondersome how some people can carry all things with a grave face.”

Thus Mr Adams and she discoursed, till they came opposite to a great house which stood at some distance from the road: a lady in the coach, spying it, cried, “Yonder lives the unfortunate Leonora, if one can justly call a woman unfortunate whom we must own at the same time guilty and the author of her own calamity.” This was abundantly sufficient to awaken the curiosity of Mr Adams, as indeed it did that of the whole company, who jointly solicited the lady to acquaint them with Leonora’s history, since it seemed, by what she had said, to contain something remarkable.

The lady, who was perfectly well-bred, did not require many entreaties, and having only wished their entertainment might make amends for the company’s attention, she began in the following manner.

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