Henry Fielding: The History of Tom Jones, a foundling

14. Chapter xiv. In which the Man of the Hill concludes his history.

In which the Man of the Hill concludes his history.

"Mr Watson," continued the stranger, "very freely acquainted me, that the unhappy situation of his circumstances, occasioned by a tide of ill luck, had in a manner forced him to a resolution of destroying himself.

"I now began to argue very seriously with him, in opposition to this heathenish, or indeed diabolical, principle of the lawfulness of self-murder; and said everything which occurred to me on the subject; but, to my great concern, it seemed to have very little effect on him. He seemed not at all to repent of what he had done, and gave me reason to fear he would soon make a second attempt of the like horrible kind.

"When I had finished my discourse, instead of endeavouring to answer my arguments, he looked me stedfastly in the face, and with a smile said, `You are strangely altered, my good friend, since I remember you. I question whether any of our bishops could make a better argument against suicide than you have entertained me with; but unless you can find somebody who will lend me a cool hundred, I must either hang, or drown, or starve; and, in my opinion, the last death is the most terrible of the three.'

"I answered him very gravely that I was indeed altered since I had seen him last. That I had found leisure to look into my follies and to repent of them. I then advised him to pursue the same steps; and at last concluded with an assurance that I myself would lend him a hundred pound, if it would be of any service to his affairs, and he would not put it into the power of a die to deprive him of it.

"Mr Watson, who seemed almost composed in slumber by the former part of my discourse, was roused by the latter. He seized my hand eagerly, gave me a thousand thanks, and declared I was a friend indeed; adding that he hoped I had a better opinion of him than to imagine he had profited so little by experience, as to put any confidence in those damned dice which had so often deceived him. `No, no,' cries he; `let me but once handsomely be set up again, and if ever Fortune makes a broken merchant of me afterwards, I will forgive her.'

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