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.
9. Chapter ix. Containing matters which will surprize the reader.
This supposition so well reconciled his conduct to the general
opinion, that it met with universal assent; and the outcry against his
lenity soon began to take another turn, and was changed into an
invective against his cruelty to the poor girl. Very grave and good
women exclaimed against men who begot children, and then disowned
them. Nor were there wanting some, who, after the departure of Jenny,
insinuated that she was spirited away with a design too black to be
mentioned, and who gave frequent hints that a legal inquiry ought to
be made into the whole matter, and that some people should be forced
to produce the girl.
These calumnies might have probably produced ill consequences, at the
least might have occasioned some trouble, to a person of a more
doubtful and suspicious character than Mr Allworthy was blessed with;
but in his case they had no such effect; and, being heartily despised
by him, they served only to afford an innocent amusement to the good
gossips of the neighbourhood.
But as we cannot possibly divine what complection our reader may be
of, and as it will be some time before he will hear any more of Jenny,
we think proper to give him a very early intimation, that Mr Allworthy
was, and will hereafter appear to be, absolutely innocent of any
criminal intention whatever. He had indeed committed no other than an
error in politics, by tempering justice with mercy, and by refusing to
gratify the good-natured disposition of the mob,[*] with an object for
their compassion to work on in the person of poor Jenny, whom, in
order to pity, they desired to have seen sacrificed to ruin and
infamy, by a shameful correction in Bridewell.
[*]Whenever this word occurs in our writings, it intends persons
without virtue or sense, in all stations; and many of the highest
rank are often meant by it.
So far from complying with this their inclination, by which all hopes
of reformation would have been abolished, and even the gate shut
against her if her own inclinations should ever hereafter lead her to
chuse the road of virtue, Mr Allworthy rather chose to encourage the
girl to return thither by the only possible means; for too true I am
afraid it is, that many women have become abandoned, and have sunk to
the last degree of vice, by being unable to retrieve the first slip.
This will be, I am afraid, always the case while they remain among
their former acquaintance; it was therefore wisely done by Mr
Allworthy, to remove Jenny to a place where she might enjoy the
pleasure of reputation, after having tasted the ill consequences of