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.
3. Chapter iii. An odd accident which befel Mr Allworthy...
An odd accident which befel Mr Allworthy at his return home. The
decent behaviour of Mrs Deborah Wilkins, with some proper
animadversions on bastards.
I have told my reader, in the preceding chapter, that Mr Allworthy
inherited a large fortune; that he had a good heart, and no family.
Hence, doubtless, it will be concluded by many that he lived like an
honest man, owed no one a shilling, took nothing but what was his own,
kept a good house, entertained his neighbours with a hearty welcome at
his table, and was charitable to the poor, i.e. to those who had
rather beg than work, by giving them the offals from it; that he died
immensely rich and built an hospital.
And true it is that he did many of these things; but had he done
nothing more I should have left him to have recorded his own merit on
some fair freestone over the door of that hospital. Matters of a much
more extraordinary kind are to be the subject of this history, or I
should grossly mis-spend my time in writing so voluminous a work; and
you, my sagacious friend, might with equal profit and pleasure travel
through some pages which certain droll authors have been facetiously
pleased to call The History of England.
Mr Allworthy had been absent a full quarter of a year in London, on
some very particular business, though I know not what it was; but
judge of its importance by its having detained him so long from home,
whence he had not been absent a month at a time during the space of
many years. He came to his house very late in the evening, and after a
short supper with his sister, retired much fatigued to his chamber.
Here, having spent some minutes on his knees--a custom which he never
broke through on any account--he was preparing to step into bed, when,
upon opening the cloathes, to his great surprize he beheld an infant,
wrapt up in some coarse linen, in a sweet and profound sleep, between
his sheets. He stood some time lost in astonishment at this sight;
but, as good nature had always the ascendant in his mind, he soon
began to be touched with sentiments of compassion for the little
wretch before him. He then rang his bell, and ordered an elderly
woman-servant to rise immediately, and come to him; and in the
meantime was so eager in contemplating the beauty of innocence,
appearing in those lively colours with which infancy and sleep always
display it, that his thoughts were too much engaged to reflect that he
was in his shirt when the matron came in. She had indeed given her
master sufficient time to dress himself; for out of respect to him,
and regard to decency, she had spent many minutes in adjusting her
hair at the looking-glass, notwithstanding all the hurry in which she
had been summoned by the servant, and though her master, for aught she
knew, lay expiring in an apoplexy, or in some other fit.