Henry Fielding: The History of Tom Jones, a foundling

5. Chapter v. In which is related... (continued)

Sophia was in her chamber, reading, when her aunt came in. The moment she saw Mrs Western, she shut the book with so much eagerness, that the good lady could not forbear asking her, What book that was which she seemed so much afraid of showing? "Upon my word, madam," answered Sophia, "it is a book which I am neither ashamed nor afraid to own I have read. It is the production of a young lady of fashion, whose good understanding, I think, doth honour to her sex, and whose good heart is an honour to human nature." Mrs Western then took up the book, and immediately after threw it down, saying--"Yes, the author is of a very good family; but she is not much among people one knows. I have never read it; for the best judges say, there is not much in it."--"I dare not, madam, set up my own opinion," says Sophia, "against the best judges, but there appears to me a great deal of human nature in it; and in many parts so much true tenderness and delicacy, that it hath cost me many a tear."--"Ay, and do you love to cry then?" says the aunt. "I love a tender sensation," answered the niece, "and would pay the price of a tear for it at any time."--"Well, but show me," said the aunt, "what was you reading when I came in; there was something very tender in that, I believe, and very loving too. You blush, my dear Sophia. Ah! child, you should read books which would teach you a little hypocrisy, which would instruct you how to hide your thoughts a little better."--"I hope, madam," answered Sophia, "I have no thoughts which I ought to be ashamed of discovering."--"Ashamed! no," cries the aunt, "I don't think you have any thoughts which you ought to be ashamed of; and yet, child, you blushed just now when I mentioned the word loving. Dear Sophy, be assured you have not one thought which I am not well acquainted with; as well, child, as the French are with our motions, long before we put them in execution. Did you think, child, because you have been able to impose upon your father, that you could impose upon me? Do you imagine I did not know the reason of your overacting all that friendship for Mr Blifil yesterday? I have seen a little too much of the world, to be so deceived. Nay, nay, do not blush again. I tell you it is a passion you need not be ashamed of. It is a passion I myself approve, and have already brought your father into the approbation of it. Indeed, I solely consider your inclination; for I would always have that gratified, if possible, though one may sacrifice higher prospects. Come, I have news which will delight your very soul. Make me your confident, and I will undertake you shall be happy to the very extent of your wishes." "La, madam," says Sophia, looking more foolishly than ever she did in her life, "I know not what to say--why, madam, should you suspect?"--"Nay, no dishonesty," returned Mrs Western. "Consider, you are speaking to one of your own sex, to an aunt, and I hope you are convinced you speak to a friend. Consider, you are only revealing to me what I know already, and what I plainly saw yesterday, through that most artful of all disguises, which you had put on, and which must have deceived any one who had not perfectly known the world. Lastly, consider it is a passion which I highly approve." "La, madam," says Sophia, "you come upon one so unawares, and on a sudden. To be sure, madam, I am not blind--and certainly, if it be a fault to see all human perfections assembled together--but is it possible my father and you, madam, can see with my eyes?" "I tell you," answered the aunt, "we do entirely approve; and this very afternoon your father hath appointed for you to receive your lover." "My father, this afternoon!" cries Sophia, with the blood starting from her face.--"Yes, child," said the aunt, "this afternoon. You know the impetuosity of my brother's temper. I acquainted him with the passion which I first discovered in you that evening when you fainted away in the field. I saw it in your fainting. I saw it immediately upon your recovery. I saw it that evening at supper, and the next morning at breakfast (you know, child, I have seen the world). Well, I no sooner acquainted my brother, but he immediately wanted to propose it to Allworthy. He proposed it yesterday, Allworthy consented (as to be sure he must with joy), and this afternoon, I tell you, you are to put on all your best airs." "This afternoon!" cries Sophia. "Dear aunt, you frighten me out of my senses." "O, my dear," said the aunt, "you will soon come to yourself again; for he is a charming young fellow, that's the truth on't." "Nay, I will own," says Sophia, "I know none with such perfections. So brave, and yet so gentle; so witty, yet so inoffensive; so humane, so civil, so genteel, so handsome! What signifies his being base born, when compared with such qualifications as these?" "Base born? What do you mean?" said the aunt, "Mr Blifil base born!" Sophia turned instantly pale at this name, and faintly repeated it. Upon which the aunt cried, "Mr Blifil--ay, Mr Blifil, of whom else have we been talking?" "Good heavens," answered Sophia, ready to sink, "of Mr Jones, I thought; I am sure I know no other who deserves--" "I protest," cries the aunt, "you frighten me in your turn. Is it Mr Jones, and not Mr Blifil, who is the object of your affection?" "Mr Blifil!" repeated Sophia. "Sure it is impossible you can be in earnest; if you are, I am the most miserable woman alive." Mrs Western now stood a few moments silent, while sparks of fiery rage flashed from her eyes. At length, collecting all her force of voice, she thundered forth in the following articulate sounds:

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