Henry Fielding: The History of Tom Jones, a foundling

2. Chapter ii. The character of Mrs Western. (continued)

"Pray, brother, have you not observed something very extraordinary in my niece lately?"--"No, not I," answered Western; "is anything the matter with the girl?"--"I think there is," replied she; "and something of much consequence too."--"Why, she doth not complain of anything," cries Western; "and she hath had the small-pox."--"Brother," returned she, "girls are liable to other distempers besides the small-pox, and sometimes possibly to much worse." Here Western interrupted her with much earnestness, and begged her, if anything ailed his daughter, to acquaint him immediately; adding, "she knew he loved her more than his own soul, and that he would send to the world's end for the best physician to her." "Nay, nay," answered she, smiling, "the distemper is not so terrible; but I believe, brother, you are convinced I know the world, and I promise you I was never more deceived in my life, if my niece be not most desperately in love."--"How! in love!" cries Western, in a passion; "in love, without acquainting me! I'll disinherit her; I'll turn her out of doors, stark naked, without a farthing. Is all my kindness vor 'ur, and vondness o'ur come to this, to fall in love without asking me leave?"--"But you will not," answered Mrs Western, "turn this daughter, whom you love better than your own soul, out of doors, before you know whether you shall approve her choice. Suppose she should have fixed on the very person whom you yourself would wish, I hope you would not be angry then?"--"No, no," cries Western, "that would make a difference. If she marries the man I would ha' her, she may love whom she pleases, I shan't trouble my head about that." "That is spoken," answered the sister, "like a sensible man; but I believe the very person she hath chosen would be the very person you would choose for her. I will disclaim all knowledge of the world, if it is not so; and I believe, brother, you will allow I have some."--"Why, lookee, sister," said Western, "I do believe you have as much as any woman; and to be sure those are women's matters. You know I don't love to hear you talk about politics; they belong to us, and petticoats should not meddle: but come, who is the man?"--"Marry!" said she, "you may find him out yourself if you please. You, who are so great a politician, can be at no great loss. The judgment which can penetrate into the cabinets of princes, and discover the secret springs which move the great state wheels in all the political machines of Europe, must surely, with very little difficulty, find out what passes in the rude uninformed mind of a girl."--"Sister," cries the squire, "I have often warn'd you not to talk the court gibberish to me. I tell you, I don't understand the lingo: but I can read a journal, or the London Evening Post. Perhaps, indeed, there may be now and tan a verse which I can't make much of, because half the letters are left out; yet I know very well what is meant by that, and that our affairs don't go so well as they should do, because of bribery and corruption."--"I pity your country ignorance from my heart," cries the lady.--"Do you?" answered Western; "and I pity your town learning; I had rather be anything than a courtier, and a Presbyterian, and a Hanoverian too, as some people, I believe, are."--"If you mean me," answered she, "you know I am a woman, brother; and it signifies nothing what I am. Besides--"--"I do know you are a woman," cries the squire, "and it's well for thee that art one; if hadst been a man, I promise thee I had lent thee a flick long ago."--"Ay, there," said she, "in that flick lies all your fancied superiority. Your bodies, and not your brains, are stronger than ours. Believe me, it is well for you that you are able to beat us; or, such is the superiority of our understanding, we should make all of you what the brave, and wise, and witty, and polite are already--our slaves."--"I am glad I know your mind," answered the squire. "But we'll talk more of this matter another time. At present, do tell me what man is it you mean about my daughter?"--"Hold a moment," said she, "while I digest that sovereign contempt I have for your sex; or else I ought to be angry too with you. There--I have made a shift to gulp it down. And now, good politic sir, what think you of Mr Blifil? Did she not faint away on seeing him lie breathless on the ground? Did she not, after he was recovered, turn pale again the moment we came up to that part of the field where he stood? And pray what else should be the occasion of all her melancholy that night at supper, the next morning, and indeed ever since?"--"'Fore George!" cries the squire, "now you mind me on't, I remember it all. It is certainly so, and I am glad on't with all my heart. I knew Sophy was a good girl, and would not fall in love to make me angry. I was never more rejoiced in my life; for nothing can lie so handy together as our two estates. I had this matter in my head some time ago: for certainly the two estates are in a manner joined together in matrimony already, and it would be a thousand pities to part them. It is true, indeed, there be larger estates in the kingdom, but not in this county, and I had rather bate something, than marry my daughter among strangers and foreigners. Besides, most o' zuch great estates be in the hands of lords, and I heate the very name of themmun. Well but, sister, what would you advise me to do; for I tell you women know these matters better than we do?"--"Oh, your humble servant, sir," answered the lady: "we are obliged to you for allowing us a capacity in anything. Since you are pleased, then, most politic sir, to ask my advice, I think you may propose the match to Allworthy yourself. There is no indecorum in the proposal's coming from the parent of either side. King Alcinous, in Mr Pope's Odyssey, offers his daughter to Ulysses. I need not caution so politic a person not to say that your daughter is in love; that would indeed be against all rules."--"Well," said the squire, "I will propose it; but I shall certainly lend un a flick, if he should refuse me." "Fear not," cries Mrs Western; "the match is too advantageous to be refused." "I don't know that," answered the squire: "Allworthy is a queer b--ch, and money hath no effect o'un." "Brother," said the lady, "your politics astonish me. Are you really to be imposed on by professions? Do you think Mr Allworthy hath more contempt for money than other men because he professes more? Such credulity would better become one of us weak women, than that wise sex which heaven hath formed for politicians. Indeed, brother, you would make a fine plenipo to negotiate with the French. They would soon persuade you, that they take towns out of mere defensive principles." "Sister," answered the squire, with much scorn, "let your friends at court answer for the towns taken; as you are a woman, I shall lay no blame upon you; for I suppose they are wiser than to trust women with secrets." He accompanied this with so sarcastical a laugh, that Mrs Western could bear no longer. She had been all this time fretted in a tender part (for she was indeed very deeply skilled in these matters, and very violent in them), and therefore, burst forth in a rage, declared her brother to be both a clown and a blockhead, and that she would stay no longer in his house.

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