Conclusion of the unfortunate jilt.
Leonora, having once broke through the bounds which custom and modesty impose on her sex, soon gave an unbridled indulgence to her passion. Her visits to Bellarmine were more constant, as well as longer, than his surgeon's: in a word, she became absolutely his nurse; made his water-gruel, administered him his medicines; and, notwithstanding the prudent advice of her aunt to the contrary, almost intirely resided in her wounded lover's apartment.
The ladies of the town began to take her conduct under consideration: it was the chief topic of discourse at their tea-tables, and was very severely censured by the most part; especially by Lindamira, a lady whose discreet and starch carriage, together with a constant attendance at church three times a day, had utterly defeated many malicious attacks on her own reputation; for such was the envy that Lindamira's virtue had attracted, that, notwithstanding her own strict behaviour and strict enquiry into the lives of others, she had not been able to escape being the mark of some arrows herself, which, however, did her no injury; a blessing, perhaps, owed by her to the clergy, who were her chief male companions, and with two or three of whom she had been barbarously and unjustly calumniated.
"Not so unjustly neither, perhaps," says Slipslop; "for the clergy are men, as well as other folks."
The extreme delicacy of Lindamira's virtue was cruelly hurt by those freedoms which Leonora allowed herself: she said, "It was an affront to her sex; that she did not imagine it consistent with any woman's honour to speak to the creature, or to be seen in her company; and that, for her part, she should always refuse to dance at an assembly with her, for fear of contamination by taking her by the hand."
But to return to my story: as soon as Bellarmine was recovered, which was somewhat within a month from his receiving the wound, he set out, according to agreement, for Leonora's father's, in order to propose the match, and settle all matters with him touching settlements, and the like.
A little before his arrival the old gentleman had received an intimation of the affair by the following letter, which I can repeat verbatim, and which, they say, was written neither by Leonora nor her aunt, though it was in a woman's hand. The letter was in these words:—
"SIR,—I am sorry to acquaint you that your daughter, Leonora, hath acted one of the basest as well as most simple parts with a young gentleman to whom she had engaged herself, and whom she hath (pardon the word) jilted for another of inferior fortune, notwithstanding his superior figure. You may take what measures you please on this occasion; I have performed what I thought my duty; as I have, though unknown to you, a very great respect for your family."
The old gentleman did not give himself the trouble to answer this kind epistle; nor did he take any notice of it, after he had read it, till he saw Bellarmine. He was, to say the truth, one of those fathers who look on children as an unhappy consequence of their youthful pleasures; which, as he would have been delighted not to have had attended them, so was he no less pleased with any opportunity to rid himself of the incumbrance. He passed, in the world's language, as an exceeding good father; being not only so rapacious as to rob and plunder all mankind to the utmost of his power, but even to deny himself the conveniencies, and almost necessaries, of life; which his neighbours attributed to a desire of raising immense fortunes for his children: but in fact it was not so; he heaped up money for its own sake only, and looked on his children as his rivals, who were to enjoy his beloved mistress when he was incapable of possessing her, and which he would have been much more charmed with the power of carrying along with him; nor had his children any other security of being his heirs than that the law would constitute them such without a will, and that he had not affection enough for any one living to take the trouble of writing one.
To this gentleman came Bellarmine, on the errand I have mentioned. His person, his equipage, his family, and his estate, seemed to the father to make him an advantageous match for his daughter: he therefore very readily accepted his proposals: but when Bellarmine imagined the principal affair concluded, and began to open the incidental matters of fortune, the old gentleman presently changed his countenance, saying, "He resolved never to marry his daughter on a Smithfield match; that whoever had love for her to take her would, when he died, find her share of his fortune in his coffers; but he had seen such examples of undutifulness happen from the too early generosity of parents, that he had made a vow never to part with a shilling whilst he lived." He commended the saying of Solomon, "He that spareth the rod spoileth the child;" but added, "he might have likewise asserted, That he that spareth the purse saveth the child." He then ran into a discourse on the extravagance of the youth of the age; whence he launched into a dissertation on horses; and came at length to commend those Bellarmine drove. That fine gentleman, who at another season would have been well enough pleased to dwell a little on that subject, was now very eager to resume the circumstance of fortune. He said, "He had a very high value for the young lady, and would receive her with less than he would any other whatever; but that even his love to her made some regard to worldly matters necessary; for it would be a most distracting sight for him to see her, when he had the honour to be her husband, in less than a coach and six." The old gentleman answered, "Four will do, four will do;" and then took a turn from horses to extravagance and from extravagance to horses, till he came round to the equipage again; whither he was no sooner arrived than Bellarmine brought him back to the point; but all to no purpose; he made his escape from that subject in a minute; till at last the lover declared, "That in the present situation of his affairs it was impossible for him, though he loved Leonora more than tout le monde, to marry her without any fortune." To which the father answered, "He was sorry that his daughter must lose so valuable a match; that, if he had an inclination, at present it was not in his power to advance a shilling: that he had had great losses, and been at great expenses on projects; which, though he had great expectation from them, had yet produced him nothing: that he did not know what might happen hereafter, as on the birth of a son, or such accident; but he would make no promise, or enter into any article, for he would not break his vow for all the daughters in the world."
In short, ladies, to keep you no longer in suspense, Bellarmine, having tried every argument and persuasion which he could invent, and finding them all ineffectual, at length took his leave, but not in order to return to Leonora; he proceeded directly to his own seat, whence, after a few days' stay, he returned to Paris, to the great delight of the French and the honour of the English nation.
But as soon as he arrived at his home he presently despatched a messenger with the following epistle to Leonora:—
"ADORABLE AND CHARMANTE,—I am sorry to have the honour to tell you I am not the heureux person destined for your divine arms. Your papa hath told me so with a politesse not often seen on this side Paris. You may perhaps guess his manner of refusing me. Ah, mon Dieu! You will certainly believe me, madam, incapable myself of delivering this triste message, which I intend to try the French air to cure the consequences of. A jamais! Coeur! Ange! Au diable! If your papa obliges you to a marriage, I hope we shall see you at Paris; till when, the wind that flows from thence will be the warmest dans le monde, for it will consist almost entirely of my sighs. Adieu, ma princesse! Ah, l'amour!
I shall not attempt, ladies, to describe Leonora's condition when she received this letter. It is a picture of horror, which I should have as little pleasure in drawing as you in beholding. She immediately left the place where she was the subject of conversation and ridicule, and retired to that house I showed you when I began the story; where she hath ever since led a disconsolate life, and deserves, perhaps, pity for her misfortunes, more than our censure for a behaviour to which the artifices of her aunt very probably contributed, and to which very young women are often rendered too liable by that blameable levity in the education of our sex.
"If I was inclined to pity her," said a young lady in the coach, "it would be for the loss of Horatio; for I cannot discern any misfortune in her missing such a husband as Bellarmine."
"Why, I must own," says Slipslop, "the gentleman was a little false-hearted; but howsumever, it was hard to have two lovers, and get never a husband at all. But pray, madam, what became of Our-asho?"
He remains, said the lady, still unmarried, and hath applied himself so strictly to his business, that he hath raised, I hear, a very considerable fortune. And what is remarkable, they say he never hears the name of Leonora without a sigh, nor hath ever uttered one syllable to charge her with her ill-conduct towards him.
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.
A notable dissertation by Mr Abraham Adams; wherein that gentleman appears in a political light.
"I do assure you, sir" (says he, taking the gentleman by the hand), "I am heartily glad to meet with a man of your kidney; for, though I am a poor parson, I will be bold to say I am an honest man, and would not do an ill thing to be made a bishop; nay, though it hath not fallen in my way to offer so noble a sacrifice, I have not been without opportunities of suffering for the sake of my conscience, I thank Heaven for them; for I have had relations, though I say it, who made some figure in the world; particularly a nephew, who was a shopkeeper and an alderman of a corporation. He was a good lad, and was under my care when a boy; and I believe would do what I bade him to his dying day. Indeed, it looks like extreme vanity in me to affect being a man of such consequence as to have so great an interest in an alderman; but others have thought so too, as manifestly appeared by the rector, whose curate I formerly was, sending for me on the approach of an election, and telling me, if I expected to continue in his cure, that I must bring my nephew to vote for one Colonel Courtly, a gentleman whom I had never heard tidings of till that instant. I told the rector I had no power over my nephew's vote (God forgive me for such prevarication!); that I supposed he would give it according to his conscience; that I would by no means endeavour to influence him to give it otherwise. He told me it was in vain to equivocate; that he knew I had already spoke to him in favour of esquire Fickle, my neighbour; and, indeed, it was true I had; for it was at a season when the church was in danger, and when all good men expected they knew not what would happen to us all. I then answered boldly, if he thought I had given my promise, he affronted me in proposing any breach of it. Not to be too prolix; I persevered, and so did my nephew, in the esquire's interest, who was chose chiefly through his means; and so I lost my curacy, Well, sir, but do you think the esquire ever mentioned a word of the church? Ne verbum quidem, ut ita dicam: within two years he got a place, and hath ever since lived in London; where I have been informed (but God forbid I should believe that,) that he never so much as goeth to church. I remained, sir, a considerable time without any cure, and lived a full month on one funeral sermon, which I preached on the indisposition of a clergyman; but this by the bye. At last, when Mr Fickle got his place, Colonel Courtly stood again; and who should make interest for him but Mr Fickle himself! that very identical Mr Fickle, who had formerly told me the colonel was an enemy to both the church and state, had the confidence to sollicit my nephew for him; and the colonel himself offered me to make me chaplain to his regiment, which I refused in favour of Sir Oliver Hearty, who told us he would sacrifice everything to his country; and I believe he would, except his hunting, which he stuck so close to, that in five years together he went but twice up to parliament; and one of those times, I have been told, never was within sight of the House. However, he was a worthy man, and the best friend I ever had; for, by his interest with a bishop, he got me replaced into my curacy, and gave me eight pounds out of his own pocket to buy me a gown and cassock, and furnish my house. He had our interest while he lived, which was not many years. On his death I had fresh applications made to me; for all the world knew the interest I had with my good nephew, who now was a leading man in the corporation; and Sir Thomas Booby, buying the estate which had been Sir Oliver's, proposed himself a candidate. He was then a young gentleman just come from his travels; and it did me good to hear him discourse on affairs which, for my part, I knew nothing of. If I had been master of a thousand votes he should have had them all. I engaged my nephew in his interest, and he was elected; and a very fine parliament-man he was. They tell me he made speeches of an hour long, and, I have been told, very fine ones; but he could never persuade the parliament to be of his opinion. Non omnia possumus omnes. He promised me a living, poor man! and I believe I should have had it, but an accident happened, which was, that my lady had promised it before, unknown to him. This, indeed, I never heard till afterwards; for my nephew, who died about a month before the incumbent, always told me I might be assured of it. Since that time, Sir Thomas, poor man, had always so much business, that he never could find leisure to see me. I believe it was partly my lady's fault too, who did not think my dress good enough for the gentry at her table. However, I must do him the justice to say he never was ungrateful; and I have always found his kitchen, and his cellar too, open to me: many a time, after service on a Sunday—for I preach at four churches—have I recruited my spirits with a glass of his ale. Since my nephew's death, the corporation is in other hands; and I am not a man of that consequence I was formerly. I have now no longer any talents to lay out in the service of my country; and to whom nothing is given, of him can nothing be required. However, on all proper seasons, such as the approach of an election, I throw a suitable dash or two into my sermons; which I have the pleasure to hear is not disagreeable to Sir Thomas and the other honest gentlemen my neighbours, who have all promised me these five years to procure an ordination for a son of mine, who is now near thirty, hath an infinite stock of learning, and is, I thank Heaven, of an unexceptionable life; though, as he was never at an university, the bishop refuses to ordain him. Too much care cannot indeed be taken in admitting any to the sacred office; though I hope he will never act so as to be a disgrace to any order, but will serve his God and his country to the utmost of his power, as I have endeavoured to do before him; nay, and will lay down his life whenever called to that purpose. I am sure I have educated him in those principles; so that I have acquitted my duty, and shall have nothing to answer for on that account. But I do not distrust him, for he is a good boy; and if Providence should throw it in his way to be of as much consequence in a public light as his father once was, I can answer for him he will use his talents as honestly as I have done."
In which the gentleman discants on bravery and heroic virtue, till an unlucky accident puts an end to the discourse.
The gentleman highly commended Mr Adams for his good resolutions, and told him, "He hoped his son would tread in his steps;" adding, "that if he would not die for his country, he would not be worthy to live in it. I'd make no more of shooting a man that would not die for his country, than—
"Sir," said he, "I have disinherited a nephew, who is in the army, because he would not exchange his commission and go to the West Indies. I believe the rascal is a coward, though he pretends to be in love forsooth. I would have all such fellows hanged, sir; I would have them hanged." Adams answered, "That would be too severe; that men did not make themselves; and if fear had too much ascendance in the mind, the man was rather to be pitied than abhorred; that reason and time might teach him to subdue it." He said, "A man might be a coward at one time, and brave at another. Homer," says he, "who so well understood and copied Nature, hath taught us this lesson; for Paris fights and Hector runs away. Nay, we have a mighty instance of this in the history of later ages, no longer ago than the 705th year of Rome, when the great Pompey, who had won so many battles and been honoured with so many triumphs, and of whose valour several authors, especially Cicero and Paterculus, have formed such elogiums; this very Pompey left the battle of Pharsalia before he had lost it, and retreated to his tent, where he sat like the most pusillanimous rascal in a fit of despair, and yielded a victory, which was to determine the empire of the world, to Caesar. I am not much travelled in the history of modern times, that is to say, these last thousand years; but those who are can, I make no question, furnish you with parallel instances." He concluded, therefore, that, had he taken any such hasty resolutions against his nephew, he hoped he would consider better, and retract them. The gentleman answered with great warmth, and talked much of courage and his country, till, perceiving it grew late, he asked Adams, "What place he intended for that night?" He told him, "He waited there for the stage-coach."—"The stage-coach, sir!" said the gentleman; "they are all passed by long ago. You may see the last yourself almost three miles before us."—"I protest and so they are," cries Adams; "then I must make haste and follow them." The gentleman told him, "he would hardly be able to overtake them; and that, if he did not know his way, he would be in danger of losing himself on the downs, for it would be presently dark; and he might ramble about all night, and perhaps find himself farther from his journey's end in the morning than he was now." He advised him, therefore, "to accompany him to his house, which was very little out of his way," assuring him "that he would find some country fellow in his parish who would conduct him for sixpence to the city where he was going." Adams accepted this proposal, and on they travelled, the gentleman renewing his discourse on courage, and the infamy of not being ready, at all times, to sacrifice our lives to our country. Night overtook them much about the same time as they arrived near some bushes; whence, on a sudden, they heard the most violent shrieks imaginable in a female voice. Adams offered to snatch the gun out of his companion's hand. "What are you doing?" said he. "Doing!" said Adams; "I am hastening to the assistance of the poor creature whom some villains are murdering." "You are not mad enough, I hope," says the gentleman, trembling: "do you consider this gun is only charged with shot, and that the robbers are most probably furnished with pistols loaded with bullets? This is no business of ours; let us make as much haste as possible out of the way, or we may fall into their hands ourselves." The shrieks now increasing, Adams made no answer, but snapt his fingers, and, brandishing his crabstick, made directly to the place whence the voice issued; and the man of courage made as much expedition towards his own home, whither he escaped in a very short time without once looking behind him; where we will leave him, to contemplate his own bravery, and to censure the want of it in others, and return to the good Adams, who, on coming up to the place whence the noise proceeded, found a woman struggling with a man, who had thrown her on the ground, and had almost overpowered her. The great abilities of Mr Adams were not necessary to have formed a right judgment of this affair on the first sight. He did not, therefore, want the entreaties of the poor wretch to assist her; but, lifting up his crabstick, he immediately levelled a blow at that part of the ravisher's head where, according to the opinion of the ancients, the brains of some persons are deposited, and which he had undoubtedly let forth, had not Nature (who, as wise men have observed, equips all creatures with what is most expedient for them) taken a provident care (as she always doth with those she intends for encounters) to make this part of the head three times as thick as those of ordinary men who are designed to exercise talents which are vulgarly called rational, and for whom, as brains are necessary, she is obliged to leave some room for them in the cavity of the skull; whereas, those ingredients being entirely useless to persons of the heroic calling, she hath an opportunity of thickening the bone, so as to make it less subject to any impression, or liable to be cracked or broken: and indeed, in some who are predestined to the command of armies and empires, she is supposed sometimes to make that part perfectly solid.
As a game cock, when engaged in amorous toying with a hen, if perchance he espies another cock at hand, immediately quits his female, and opposes himself to his rival, so did the ravisher, on the information of the crabstick, immediately leap from the woman and hasten to assail the man. He had no weapons but what Nature had furnished him with. However, he clenched his fist, and presently darted it at that part of Adams's breast where the heart is lodged. Adams staggered at the violence of the blow, when, throwing away his staff, he likewise clenched that fist which we have before commemorated, and would have discharged it full in the breast of his antagonist, had he not dexterously caught it with his left hand, at the same time darting his head (which some modern heroes of the lower class use, like the battering-ram of the ancients, for a weapon of offence; another reason to admire the cunningness of Nature, in composing it of those impenetrable materials); dashing his head, I say, into the stomach of Adams, he tumbled him on his back; and, not having any regard to the laws of heroism, which would have restrained him from any farther attack on his enemy till he was again on his legs, he threw himself upon him, and, laying hold on the ground with his left hand, he with his right belaboured the body of Adams till he was weary, and indeed till he concluded (to use the language of fighting) "that he had done his business;" or, in the language of poetry, "that he had sent him to the shades below;" in plain English, "that he was dead."
But Adams, who was no chicken, and could bear a drubbing as well as any boxing champion in the universe, lay still only to watch his opportunity; and now, perceiving his antagonist to pant with his labours, he exerted his utmost force at once, and with such success that he overturned him, and became his superior; when, fixing one of his knees in his breast, he cried out in an exulting voice, "It is my turn now;" and, after a few minutes' constant application, he gave him so dexterous a blow just under his chin that the fellow no longer retained any motion, and Adams began to fear he had struck him once too often; for he often asserted "he should be concerned to have the blood of even the wicked upon him."
Adams got up and called aloud to the young woman. "Be of good cheer, damsel," said he, "you are no longer in danger of your ravisher, who, I am terribly afraid, lies dead at my feet; but God forgive me what I have done in defence of innocence!" The poor wretch, who had been some time in recovering strength enough to rise, and had afterwards, during the engagement, stood trembling, being disabled by fear even from running away, hearing her champion was victorious, came up to him, but not without apprehensions even of her deliverer; which, however, she was soon relieved from by his courteous behaviour and gentle words. They were both standing by the body, which lay motionless on the ground, and which Adams wished to see stir much more than the woman did, when he earnestly begged her to tell him "by what misfortune she came, at such a time of night, into so lonely a place." She acquainted him, "She was travelling towards London, and had accidentally met with the person from whom he had delivered her, who told her he was likewise on his journey to the same place, and would keep her company; an offer which, suspecting no harm, she had accepted; that he told her they were at a small distance from an inn where she might take up her lodging that evening, and he would show her a nearer way to it than by following the road; that if she had suspected him (which she did not, he spoke so kindly to her), being alone on these downs in the dark, she had no human means to avoid him; that, therefore, she put her whole trust in Providence, and walked on, expecting every moment to arrive at the inn; when on a sudden, being come to those bushes, he desired her to stop, and after some rude kisses, which she resisted, and some entreaties, which she rejected, he laid violent hands on her, and was attempting to execute his wicked will, when, she thanked G—, he timely came up and prevented him." Adams encouraged her for saying she had put her whole trust in Providence, and told her, "He doubted not but Providence had sent him to her deliverance, as a reward for that trust. He wished indeed he had not deprived the wicked wretch of life, but G—'s will be done;" said, "He hoped the goodness of his intention would excuse him in the next world, and he trusted in her evidence to acquit him in this." He was then silent, and began to consider with himself whether it would be properer to make his escape, or to deliver himself into the hands of justice; which meditation ended as the reader will see in the next chapter.
Giving an account of the strange catastrophe of the preceding adventure, which drew poor Adams into fresh calamities; and who the woman was who owed the preservation of her chastity to his victorious arm.
The silence of Adams, added to the darkness of the night and loneliness of the place, struck dreadful apprehension into the poor woman's mind; she began to fear as great an enemy in her deliverer as he had delivered her from; and as she had not light enough to discover the age of Adams, and the benevolence visible in his countenance, she suspected he had used her as some very honest men have used their country; and had rescued her out of the hands of one rifler in order to rifle her himself. Such were the suspicions she drew from his silence; but indeed they were ill-grounded. He stood over his vanquished enemy, wisely weighing in his mind the objections which might be made to either of the two methods of proceeding mentioned in the last chapter, his judgment sometimes inclining to the one, and sometimes to the other; for both seemed to him so equally advisable and so equally dangerous, that probably he would have ended his days, at least two or three of them, on that very spot, before he had taken any resolution; at length he lifted up his eyes, and spied a light at a distance, to which he instantly addressed himself with Heus tu, traveller, heus tu! He presently heard several voices, and perceived the light approaching toward him. The persons who attended the light began some to laugh, others to sing, and others to hollow, at which the woman testified some fear (for she had concealed her suspicions of the parson himself); but Adams said, "Be of good cheer, damsel, and repose thy trust in the same Providence which hath hitherto protected thee, and never will forsake the innocent." These people, who now approached, were no other, reader, than a set of young fellows, who came to these bushes in pursuit of a diversion which they call bird-batting. This, if you are ignorant of it (as perhaps if thou hast never travelled beyond Kensington, Islington, Hackney, or the Borough, thou mayst be), I will inform thee, is performed by holding a large clap-net before a lanthorn, and at the same time beating the bushes; for the birds, when they are disturbed from their places of rest, or roost, immediately make to the light, and so are inticed within the net. Adams immediately told them what happened, and desired them to hold the lanthorn to the face of the man on the ground, for he feared he had smote him fatally. But indeed his fears were frivolous; for the fellow, though he had been stunned by the last blow he received, had long since recovered his senses, and, finding himself quit of Adams, had listened attentively to the discourse between him and the young woman; for whose departure he had patiently waited, that he might likewise withdraw himself, having no longer hopes of succeeding in his desires, which were moreover almost as well cooled by Mr Adams as they could have been by the young woman herself had he obtained his utmost wish. This fellow, who had a readiness at improving any accident, thought he might now play a better part than that of a dead man; and, accordingly, the moment the candle was held to his face he leapt up, and, laying hold on Adams, cried out, "No, villain, I am not dead, though you and your wicked whore might well think me so, after the barbarous cruelties you have exercised on me. Gentlemen," said he, "you are luckily come to the assistance of a poor traveller, who would otherwise have been robbed and murdered by this vile man and woman, who led me hither out of my way from the high-road, and both falling on me have used me as you see." Adams was going to answer, when one of the young fellows cried, "D—n them, let's carry them both before the justice." The poor woman began to tremble, and Adams lifted up his voice, but in vain. Three or four of them laid hands on him; and one holding the lanthorn to his face, they all agreed he had the most villainous countenance they ever beheld; and an attorney's clerk, who was of the company, declared he was sure he had remembered him at the bar. As to the woman, her hair was dishevelled in the struggle, and her nose had bled; so that they could not perceive whether she was handsome or ugly, but they said her fright plainly discovered her guilt. And searching her pockets, as they did those of Adams, for money, which the fellow said he had lost, they found in her pocket a purse with some gold in it, which abundantly convinced them, especially as the fellow offered to swear to it. Mr Adams was found to have no more than one halfpenny about him. This the clerk said "was a great presumption that he was an old offender, by cunningly giving all the booty to the woman." To which all the rest readily assented.
This accident promising them better sport than what they had proposed, they quitted their intention of catching birds, and unanimously resolved to proceed to the justice with the offenders. Being informed what a desperate fellow Adams was, they tied his hands behind him; and, having hid their nets among the bushes, and the lanthorn being carried before them, they placed the two prisoners in their front, and then began their march; Adams not only submitting patiently to his own fate, but comforting and encouraging his companion under her sufferings.
Whilst they were on their way the clerk informed the rest that this adventure would prove a very beneficial one; for that they would all be entitled to their proportions of £80 for apprehending the robbers. This occasioned a contention concerning the parts which they had severally borne in taking them; one insisting he ought to have the greatest share, for he had first laid his hands on Adams; another claiming a superior part for having first held the lanthorn to the man's face on the ground, by which, he said, "the whole was discovered." The clerk claimed four-fifths of the reward for having proposed to search the prisoners, and likewise the carrying them before the justice: he said, "Indeed, in strict justice, he ought to have the whole." These claims, however, they at last consented to refer to a future decision, but seemed all to agree that the clerk was entitled to a moiety. They then debated what money should be allotted to the young fellow who had been employed only in holding the nets. He very modestly said, "That he did not apprehend any large proportion would fall to his share, but hoped they would allow him something; he desired them to consider that they had assigned their nets to his care, which prevented him from being as forward as any in laying hold of the robbers" (for so those innocent people were called); "that if he had not occupied the nets, some other must;" concluding, however, "that he should be contented with the smallest share imaginable, and should think that rather their bounty than his merit." But they were all unanimous in excluding him from any part whatever, the clerk particularly swearing, "If they gave him a shilling they might do what they pleased with the rest; for he would not concern himself with the affair." This contention was so hot, and so totally engaged the attention of all the parties, that a dexterous nimble thief, had he been in Mr Adams's situation, would have taken care to have given the justice no trouble that evening. Indeed, it required not the art of a Sheppard to escape, especially as the darkness of the night would have so much befriended him; but Adams trusted rather to his innocence than his heels, and, without thinking of flight, which was easy, or resistance (which was impossible, as there were six lusty young fellows, besides the villain himself, present), he walked with perfect resignation the way they thought proper to conduct him.
Adams frequently vented himself in ejaculations during their journey; at last, poor Joseph Andrews occurring to his mind, he could not refrain sighing forth his name, which being heard by his companion in affliction, she cried with some vehemence, "Sure I should know that voice; you cannot certainly, sir, be Mr Abraham Adams?"—"Indeed, damsel," says he, "that is my name; there is something also in your voice which persuades me I have heard it before."—"La! sir," says she, "don't you remember poor Fanny?"—"How, Fanny!" answered Adams: "indeed I very well remember you; what can have brought you hither?"—"I have told you, sir," replied she, "I was travelling towards London; but I thought you mentioned Joseph Andrews; pray what is become of him?"—"I left him, child, this afternoon," said Adams, "in the stage-coach, in his way towards our parish, whither he is going to see you."—"To see me! La, sir," answered Fanny, "sure you jeer me; what should he be going to see me for?"—"Can you ask that?" replied Adams. "I hope, Fanny, you are not inconstant; I assure you he deserves much better of you."—"La! Mr Adams," said she, "what is Mr Joseph to me? I am sure I never had anything to say to him, but as one fellow-servant might to another."—"I am sorry to hear this," said Adams; "a virtuous passion for a young man is what no woman need be ashamed of. You either do not tell me truth, or you are false to a very worthy man." Adams then told her what had happened at the inn, to which she listened very attentively; and a sigh often escaped from her, notwithstanding her utmost endeavours to the contrary; nor could she prevent herself from asking a thousand questions, which would have assured any one but Adams, who never saw farther into people than they desired to let him, of the truth of a passion she endeavoured to conceal. Indeed, the fact was, that this poor girl, having heard of Joseph's misfortune, by some of the servants belonging to the coach which we have formerly mentioned to have stopt at the inn while the poor youth was confined to his bed, that instant abandoned the cow she was milking, and, taking with her a little bundle of clothes under her arm, and all the money she was worth in her own purse, without consulting any one, immediately set forward in pursuit of one whom, notwithstanding her shyness to the parson, she loved with inexpressible violence, though with the purest and most delicate passion. This shyness, therefore, as we trust it will recommend her character to all our female readers, and not greatly surprize such of our males as are well acquainted with the younger part of the other sex, we shall not give ourselves any trouble to vindicate.