BOOK I. CONTAINING AS MUCH OF THE BIRTH OF THE FOUNDLING AS IS NECESSARY OR PROPER TO ACQUAINT THE READER WITH IN THE BEGINNING OF THIS HISTORY.
8. Chapter viii. A dialogue between Mesdames Bridget and Deborah...
A dialogue between Mesdames Bridget and Deborah; containing more
amusement, but less instruction, than the former.
When Mr Allworthy had retired to his study with Jenny Jones, as hath
been seen, Mrs Bridget, with the good housekeeper, had betaken
themselves to a post next adjoining to the said study; whence, through
the conveyance of a keyhole, they sucked in at their ears the
instructive lecture delivered by Mr Allworthy, together with the
answers of Jenny, and indeed every other particular which passed in
the last chapter.
This hole in her brother's study-door was indeed as well known to Mrs
Bridget, and had been as frequently applied to by her, as the famous
hole in the wall was by Thisbe of old. This served to many good
purposes. For by such means Mrs Bridget became often acquainted with
her brother's inclinations, without giving him the trouble of
repeating them to her. It is true, some inconveniences attended this
intercourse, and she had sometimes reason to cry out with Thisbe, in
Shakspeare, "O, wicked, wicked wall!" For as Mr Allworthy was a
justice of peace, certain things occurred in examinations concerning
bastards, and such like, which are apt to give great offence to the
chaste ears of virgins, especially when they approach the age of
forty, as was the case of Mrs Bridget. However, she had, on such
occasions, the advantage of concealing her blushes from the eyes of
men; and De non apparentibus, et non existentibus eadem est
ratio--in English, "When a woman is not seen to blush, she doth not
blush at all."
Both the good women kept strict silence during the whole scene between
Mr Allworthy and the girl; but as soon as it was ended, and that
gentleman was out of hearing, Mrs Deborah could not help exclaiming
against the clemency of her master, and especially against his
suffering her to conceal the father of the child, which she swore she
would have out of her before the sun set.
At these words Mrs Bridget discomposed her features with a smile (a
thing very unusual to her). Not that I would have my reader imagine,
that this was one of those wanton smiles which Homer would have you
conceive came from Venus, when he calls her the laughter-loving
goddess; nor was it one of those smiles which Lady Seraphina shoots
from the stage-box, and which Venus would quit her immortality to be
able to equal. No, this was rather one of those smiles which might be
supposed to have come from the dimpled cheeks of the august Tisiphone,
or from one of the misses, her sisters.