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Containing three Days.
WHEN a comic writer hath made his principal
characters as happy as he can, or when a tragic writer hath brought them to the highest pitch of human misery, they both conclude their business to be done, and that their work is come to a period.
Had we been of the tragic complexion, the reader must allow we were nearly arrived at this period, since it would be difficult for the devil, or any of his representatives on earth, to have contrived much greater torments for poor Jones, than those in which we left him in the last chapter; and as for Sophia, a good-natured woman would hardly wish more uneasiness to a rival, than what she must at present be supposed to feel. What then remains to complete the tragedy, but a murder or two, and a few moral sentences?
But to bring our favourites out of their present anguish and distress, and to land them at last on the
shore of happiness, seems a much harder task; task, indeed, so hard, that we do not undertake to execute it. In regard to Sophia, it is more than probable, that we shall somewhere or other provide a good husband for her in the end, either Blifil, or my lord, or somebody else; but as to poor Jones, such are the calamities in which he is at present involved, owing to his imprudence, by which, if a man doth not become a felon to the world, he is at least a felo de se; so destitute is he now of friends, and so persecuted by enemies, that we almost despair of bringing him to any good; and if our reader delights in seeing executions, I think he ought not to lose any time in taking a first row at Tyburn.
This I faithfully promise, that notwithstanding any affection which we may be supposed to have for this rogue, whom we have unfortunately made our hero, we will lend him none of that supernatural assist ance with which we are entrusted, upon condition that we use it only on very important occasions. If he doth not, therefore, find some natural means of fairly extricating himself from all his distresses, we will do no violence to the truth and dignity of history for his sake; for we had rather relate that he was hauged at Tyburn (which may very probably be the case), than forfeit our integrity, or shock the faith of our reader.
In this the ancients had a great advantage over the moderns. Their mythology, which was at that time more firmly believed by the vulgar than any reJigion is at present, gave them always an opportu. nity of delivering a favourite hero. Their deities were always ready at the writer's elbow, to execute any of his purposes; and the more extraordinary the invention was, the greater was the surprise and delight of the credulous reader. Those writers could with greater ease have conveyed a hero from one country to another, nay, from one world to another, and have brought him back again, than a poor circumscribed modern can deliver him from a jail.
The Arabians and Persians had an equal advans tage in writing their tales, from the Genii and Fairies, which they believe in as an article of their faith, upon the authority of the Koran itself. But we have none of these helps. To natural means alone are we confined: let us try, therefore, what by these means may be done for poor Jones; though, to confess the truth, something whispers me in the ear, that he doth not yet know the worst of his for tune; and that a more shocking piece of news than any he hath yet heard, remains for him in the unopened leaves of fate.
MR. Allworthy and Mrs. Miller were just sat
down to breakfast, when Blifil, who had gone out very early that morning, returned to make one of the company.
He had not been long seated, before he began as follows: Good Lord! my dear uncle, what do you think hath happened? I vow, I am afraid of telling it you, for fear of shocking you with the remem brance of ever having shown any kindness to such a villain. What is the matter, child?' said the uncle: I fear I have shown kindness in my life to the unworthy more than once. But charity doth not adopt the vices of its objects. O, sir!' returned Blifil, it is not without the secret direction of Providence that you mention, the word adoption. Your adopted son, sir, that Jones, that wretch whom you nourished to your bosom, hath proved one of the greatest villains upon earth. 'tis false,' cries Mrs. Miller.
By all that's sacred,
Mr. Jones is no vil
lain. He is one of the worthiest creatures breathing; and if any other person had called him villain, I would have thrown all this boiling water in his face. Mr. Allworthy looked very much amazed at
this behaviour. But she did not give him leave to speak, before turning to hitn, she cried, I hope you will not be angry with me; I would not offend you, sir, for the world; but, indeed, I could not bear to hear him called so. I must own, madam,' said Allworthy very gravely, I am a little surprised to hear you so warmly defend a fellow you do not know. O! I do know him, Mr. Allworthy,' said she; indeed I do; I should be the most ungrateful of all wretches if I denied it. O! he hath preserved me and my little family: we have all reason to bless him while we live. And I pray Heaven to bless him, and turn the hearts of his malicious enemies. I know, I find, I see, he hath such. You surprise me, madam, still more,' said Allworthy; sure you must mean some other. It is impossible you should have any such obligations to the man my nephew mentions. Too surely,' answered she; I have obligations to him of the greatest and tenderest kind. He hath been the preserver of me and mine. Believe me, sir, he hath been abused, grossly abused to you; I know he hath; or you, whom I know to be all goodness and honour, would not, after the many kind and tender things I have heard you say of this poor helpless child, have so disdainfully called him fellow! Indeed, my best of friends, he deserves a kinder appellation from you, had you heard the good, the kind, the grateful things which I have heard him utter of you. He never mentions your name but with a sort of adoration. In this very room I have seen him on his knees imploring all the blessings of Heaven upon your head. I do not love that child there better than he loves you.'
I see, sir, now,' said Blifil, with one of those grinning sneers with which the Devil marks his best-beloved, Mrs. Miller really doth know him. I suppose you will find she is not the only one of your acquaintance to whom he hath exposed you. As for my character, I perceive, by some hints she hath thrown out, he hath been very free with it, but
I forgive him.And the Lord forgive you, sir,' says Mrs. Miller: we have all sins enough to stand in need of his forgiveness.'
Upon my word, Mrs. Miller,' said Allworthy, 'I do not take this behaviour of yours, to my nephew, kindly; and I do assure you, as any reflections which you cast upon him must come only from that wickedest of men, they would only serve, if that were possible, to heighten my resentment against him for I must tell you, Mrs. Miller, the young man who now stands before you hath ever been the warmest advocate for the ungrateful wretch whose cause you espouse. This, I think, when you hear it from my own mouth, will make you wonder at so much baseness and ingratitude.'
You are deceived, sir,' answered Mrs. Miller: if they were the last words which were to issue from my lips, I would say you were deceived; and I once more repeat it, the Lord forgive those who have deceived you! I do not pretend to say the young man is without faults; but they are all the faults of wildness and of youth; faults which he may, nay, which I am certain he will, relinquish; and if he should not, they are vastly overbalanced by one of the most humane, tender, honest hearts that ever man was blessed with."
Indeed, Mrs. Miller,' said Allworthy, had this been related of you, I should not have believed it."
Indeed, sir,' answered she, you will believe every thing I have said, I am sure you will; and when you have heard the story which I shall tell you (for I will tell you all), you will be so far from being offended, that you will own (I know your justice so well) that I must have been the most despicable and most ungrateful of wretches, if I had acted any other part than I have.'
Well, madam,' said Allworthy, I shall be very glad to hear any good excuse for a behaviour which, I must confess, I think wants an excuse. And now, madam, will you be pleased to let my nephew pro