BOOK VI. CONTAINING ABOUT THREE WEEKS.
7. Chapter vii. A picture of formal courtship in miniature...
Here a long silence of near a quarter of an hour ensued; for the
gentleman who was to begin the conversation had all the unbecoming
modesty which consists in bashfulness. He often attempted to speak,
and as often suppressed his words just at the very point of utterance.
At last out they broke in a torrent of far-fetched and high-strained
compliments, which were answered on her side by downcast looks, half
bows, and civil monosyllables. Blifil, from his inexperience in the
ways of women, and from his conceit of himself, took this behaviour
for a modest assent to his courtship; and when, to shorten a scene
which she could no longer support, Sophia rose up and left the room,
he imputed that, too, merely to bashfulness, and comforted himself
that he should soon have enough of her company.
He was indeed perfectly well satisfied with his prospect of success;
for as to that entire and absolute possession of the heart of his
mistress which romantic lovers require, the very idea of it never
entered his head. Her fortune and her person were the sole objects of
his wishes, of which he made no doubt soon to obtain the absolute
property; as Mr Western's mind was so earnestly bent on the match; and
as he well knew the strict obedience which Sophia was always ready to
pay to her father's will, and the greater still which her father would
exact, if there was occasion. This authority, therefore, together with
the charms which he fancied in his own person and conversation, could
not fail, he thought, of succeeding with a young lady, whose
inclinations were, he doubted not, entirely disengaged.
Of Jones he certainly had not even the least jealousy; and I have
often thought it wonderful that he had not. Perhaps he imagined the
character which Jones bore all over the country (how justly, let the
reader determine), of being one of the wildest fellows in England,
might render him odious to a lady of the most exemplary modesty.
Perhaps his suspicions might be laid asleep by the behaviour of
Sophia, and of Jones himself, when they were all in company together.
Lastly, and indeed principally, he was well assured there was not
another self in the case. He fancied that he knew Jones to the bottom,
and had in reality a great contempt for his understanding, for not
being more attached to his own interest. He had no apprehension that
Jones was in love with Sophia; and as for any lucrative motives, he
imagined they would sway very little with so silly a fellow. Blifil,
moreover, thought the affair of Molly Seagrim still went on, and
indeed believed it would end in marriage; for Jones really loved him
from his childhood, and had kept no secret from him, till his
behaviour on the sickness of Mr Allworthy had entirely alienated his
heart; and it was by means of the quarrel which had ensued on this
occasion, and which was not yet reconciled, that Mr Blifil knew
nothing of the alteration which had happened in the affection which
Jones had formerly borne towards Molly.