Joseph Andrews, by Henry Fielding

Chapter 7

A very short chapter, in which parson Adams went a great way.

The lady, having finished her story, received the thanks of the company; and now Joseph, putting his head out of the coach, cried out, “Never believe me if yonder be not our parson Adams walking along without his horse!” — “On my word, and so he is,” says Slipslop: “and as sure as twopence he hath left him behind at the inn.” Indeed, true it is, the parson had exhibited a fresh instance of his absence of mind; for he was so pleased with having got Joseph into the coach, that he never once thought of the beast in the stable; and, finding his legs as nimble as he desired, he sallied out, brandishing a crabstick, and had kept on before the coach, mending and slackening his pace occasionally, so that he had never been much more or less than a quarter of a mile distant from it.

Mrs Slipslop desired the coachman to overtake him, which he attempted, but in vain; for the faster he drove the faster ran the parson, often crying out, “Aye, aye, catch me if you can;” till at length the coachman swore he would as soon attempt to drive after a greyhound, and, giving the parson two or three hearty curses, he cry’d, “Softly, softly, boys,” to his horses, which the civil beasts immediately obeyed.

But we will be more courteous to our reader than he was to Mrs Slipslop; and, leaving the coach and its company to pursue their journey, we will carry our reader on after parson Adams, who stretched forwards without once looking behind him, till, having left the coach full three miles in his rear, he came to a place where, by keeping the extremest track to the right, it was just barely possible for a human creature to miss his way. This track, however, did he keep, as indeed he had a wonderful capacity at these kinds of bare possibilities, and, travelling in it about three miles over the plain, he arrived at the summit of a hill, whence looking a great way backwards, and perceiving no coach in sight, he sat himself down on the turf, and, pulling out his Aeschylus, determined to wait here for its arrival.

He had not sat long here before a gun going off very near, a little startled him; he looked up and saw a gentleman within a hundred paces taking up a partridge which he had just shot.

Adams stood up and presented a figure to the gentleman which would have moved laughter in many; for his cassock had just again fallen down below his greatcoat, that is to say, it reached his knees, whereas the skirts of his greatcoat descended no lower than half-way down his thighs; but the gentleman’s mirth gave way to his surprize at beholding such a personage in such a place.

Adams, advancing to the gentleman, told him he hoped he had good sport, to which the other answered, “Very little.” — “I see, sir,” says Adams, “you have smote one partridge;” to which the sportsman made no reply, but proceeded to charge his piece.

Whilst the gun was charging, Adams remained in silence, which he at last broke by observing that it was a delightful evening. The gentleman, who had at first sight conceived a very distasteful opinion of the parson, began, on perceiving a book in his hand and smoaking likewise the information of the cassock, to change his thoughts, and made a small advance to conversation on his side by saying, “Sir, I suppose you are not one of these parts?”

Adams immediately told him, “No; that he was a traveller, and invited by the beauty of the evening and the place to repose a little and amuse himself with reading.” — “I may as well repose myself too,” said the sportsman, “for I have been out this whole afternoon, and the devil a bird have I seen till I came hither.”

“Perhaps then the game is not very plenty hereabouts?” cries Adams. “No, sir,” said the gentleman: “the soldiers, who are quartered in the neighbourhood, have killed it all.” — “It is very probable,” cries Adams, “for shooting is their profession.” — “Ay, shooting the game,” answered the other; “but I don’t see they are so forward to shoot our enemies. I don’t like that affair of Carthagena; if I had been there, I believe I should have done other-guess things, d — n me: what’s a man’s life when his country demands it? a man who won’t sacrifice his life for his country deserves to be hanged, d — n me.” Which words he spoke with so violent a gesture, so loud a voice, so strong an accent, and so fierce a countenance, that he might have frightened a captain of trained bands at the head of his company; but Mr Adams was not greatly subject to fear; he told him intrepidly that he very much approved his virtue, but disliked his swearing, and begged him not to addict himself to so bad a custom, without which he said he might fight as bravely as Achilles did. Indeed he was charmed with this discourse; he told the gentleman he would willingly have gone many miles to have met a man of his generous way of thinking; that, if he pleased to sit down, he should be greatly delighted to commune with him; for, though he was a clergyman, he would himself be ready, if thereto called, to lay down his life for his country.

The gentleman sat down, and Adams by him; and then the latter began, as in the following chapter, a discourse which we have placed by itself, as it is not only the most curious in this but perhaps in any other book.

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