Book IX, Chapter vi

A friendly conversation in the kitchen, which had a very common, though not very friendly, conclusion.

While our lovers were entertaining themselves in the manner which is partly described in the foregoing chapter, they were likewise furnishing out an entertainment for their good friends in the kitchen. And this in a double sense, by affording them matter for their conversation, and, at the same time, drink to enliven their spirits.

There were now assembled round the kitchen fire, besides my landlord and landlady, who occasionally went backward and forward, Mr Partridge, the serjeant, and the coachman who drove the young lady and her maid.

Partridge having acquainted the company with what he had learnt from the Man of the Hill concerning the situation in which Mrs Waters had been found by Jones, the serjeant proceeded to that part of her history which was known to him. He said she was the wife of Mr Waters, who was a captain in their regiment, and had often been with him at quarters. "Some folks," says he, "used indeed to doubt whether they were lawfully married in a church or no. But, for my part, that's no business of mine: I must own, if I was put to my corporal oath, I believe she is little better than one of us; and I fancy the captain may go to heaven when the sun shines upon a rainy day. But if he does, that is neither here nor there; for he won't want company. And the lady, to give the devil his due, is a very good sort of lady, and loves the cloth, and is always desirous to do strict justice to it; for she hath begged off many a poor soldier, and, by her good-will, would never have any of them punished. But yet, to be sure, Ensign Northerton and she were very well acquainted together at our last quarters; that is the very right and truth of the matter. But the captain he knows nothing about it; and as long as there is enough for him too, what does it signify? He loves her not a bit the worse, and I am certain would run any man through the body that was to abuse her; therefore I won't abuse her, for my part. I only repeat what other folks say; and, to be certain, what everybody says, there must be some truth in."—"Ay, ay, a great deal of truth, I warrant you," cries Partridge; "Veritas odium parit"—"All a parcel of scandalous stuff," answered the mistress of the house. "I am sure, now she is drest, she looks like a very good sort of lady, and she behaves herself like one; for she gave me a guinea for the use of my cloaths."—"A very good lady indeed!" cries the landlord; "and if you had not been a little too hasty, you would not have quarrelled with her as you did at first."—"You need mention that with my truly!" answered she: "if it had not been for your nonsense, nothing had happened. You must be meddling with what did not belong to you, and throw in your fool's discourse."—"Well, well," answered he; "what's past cannot be mended, so there's an end of the matter."—"Yes," cries she, "for this once; but will it be mended ever the more hereafter? This is not the first time I have suffered for your numscull's pate. I wish you would always hold your tongue in the house, and meddle only in matters without doors, which concern you. Don't you remember what happened about seven years ago?"—"Nay, my dear," returned he, "don't rip up old stories. Come, come, all's well, and I am sorry for what I have done." The landlady was going to reply, but was prevented by the peace-making serjeant, sorely to the displeasure of Partridge, who was a great lover of what is called fun, and a great promoter of those harmless quarrels which tend rather to the production of comical than tragical incidents.

The serjeant asked Partridge whither he and his master were travelling? "None of your magisters," answered Partridge; "I am no man's servant, I assure you; for, though I have had misfortunes in the world, I write gentleman after my name; and, as poor and simple as I may appear now, I have taught grammar-school in my time; sed hei mihi! non sum quod fui."—"No offence, I hope, sir," said the serjeant; "where, then, if I may venture to be so bold, may you and your friend be travelling?"—"You have now denominated us right," says Partridge. "Amici sumus. And I promise you my friend is one of the greatest gentlemen in the kingdom" (at which words both landlord and landlady pricked up their ears). "He is the heir of Squire Allworthy."—"What, the squire who doth so much good all over the country?" cries my landlady. "Even he," answered Partridge.—"Then I warrant," says she, "he'll have a swinging great estate hereafter."—"Most certainly," answered Partridge.—"Well," replied the landlady, "I thought the first moment I saw him he looked like a good sort of gentleman; but my husband here, to be sure, is wiser than anybody."—"I own, my dear," cries he, "it was a mistake."—"A mistake, indeed!" answered she; "but when did you ever know me to make such mistakes?"—"But how comes it, sir," cries the landlord, "that such a great gentleman walks about the country afoot?"—"I don't know," returned Partridge; "great gentlemen have humours sometimes. He hath now a dozen horses and servants at Gloucester; and nothing would serve him, but last night, it being very hot weather, he must cool himself with a walk to yon high hill, whither I likewise walked with him to bear him company; but if ever you catch me there again: for I was never so frightened in all my life. We met with the strangest man there."—"I'll be hanged," cries the landlord, "if it was not the Man of the Hill, as they call him; if indeed he be a man; but I know several people who believe it is the devil that lives there."—"Nay, nay, like enough," says Partridge; "and now you put me in the head of it, I verily and sincerely believe it was the devil, though I could not perceive his cloven foot: but perhaps he might have the power given him to hide that, since evil spirits can appear in what shapes they please."—"And pray, sir," says the serjeant, "no offence, I hope; but pray what sort of a gentleman is the devil? For I have heard some of our officers say there is no such person; and that it is only a trick of the parsons, to prevent their being broke; for, if it was publickly known that there was no devil, the parsons would be of no more use than we are in time of peace."—"Those officers," says Partridge, "are very great scholars, I suppose."—"Not much of schollards neither," answered the serjeant; "they have not half your learning, sir, I believe; and, to be sure, I thought there must be a devil, notwithstanding what they said, though one of them was a captain; for methought, thinks I to myself, if there be no devil, how can wicked people be sent to him? and I have read all that upon a book."—"Some of your officers," quoth the landlord, "will find there is a devil, to their shame, I believe. I don't question but he'll pay off some old scores upon my account. Here was one quartered upon me half a year, who had the conscience to take up one of my best beds, though he hardly spent a shilling a day in the house, and suffered his men to roast cabbages at the kitchen fire, because I would not give them a dinner on a Sunday. Every good Christian must desire there should be a devil for the punishment of such wretches."—"Harkee, landlord," said the serjeant, "don't abuse the cloth, for I won't take it."—"D—n the cloth!" answered the landlord, "I have suffered enough by them."—"Bear witness, gentlemen," says the serjeant, "he curses the king, and that's high treason."—"I curse the king! you villain," said the landlord. "Yes, you did," cries the serjeant; "you cursed the cloth, and that's cursing the king. It's all one and the same; for every man who curses the cloth would curse the king if he durst; so for matter o' that, it's all one and the same thing."—"Excuse me there, Mr Serjeant," quoth Partridge, "that's a non sequitur."—"None of your outlandish linguo," answered the serjeant, leaping from his seat; "I will not sit still and hear the cloth abused."—"You mistake me, friend," cries Partridge. "I did not mean to abuse the cloth; I only said your conclusion was a non sequitur.[*]"—"You are another," cries the serjeant," an you come to that. No more a sequitur than yourself. You are a pack of rascals, and I'll prove it; for I will fight the best man of you all for twenty pound." This challenge effectually silenced Partridge, whose stomach for drubbing did not so soon return after the hearty meal which he had lately been treated with; but the coachman, whose bones were less sore, and whose appetite for fighting was somewhat sharper, did not so easily brook the affront, of which he conceived some part at least fell to his share. He started therefore from his seat, and, advancing to the serjeant, swore he looked on himself to be as good a man as any in the army, and offered to box for a guinea. The military man accepted the combat, but refused the wager; upon which both immediately stript and engaged, till the driver of horses was so well mauled by the leader of men, that he was obliged to exhaust his small remainder of breath in begging for quarter.

[*] This word, which the serjeant unhappily mistook for an affront, is a term in logic, and means that the conclusion does not follow from the premises.

The young lady was now desirous to depart, and had given orders for her coach to be prepared; but all in vain, for the coachman was disabled from performing his office for that evening. An antient heathen would perhaps have imputed this disability to the god of drink, no less than to the god of war; for, in reality, both the combatants had sacrificed as well to the former deity as to the latter. To speak plainly, they were both dead drunk, nor was Partridge in a much better situation. As for my landlord, drinking was his trade; and the liquor had no more effect on him than it had on any other vessel in his house.

The mistress of the inn, being summoned to attend Mr Jones and his companion at their tea, gave a full relation of the latter part of the foregoing scene; and at the same time expressed great concern for the young lady, "who," she said, "was under the utmost uneasiness at being prevented from pursuing her journey. She is a sweet pretty creature," added she, "and I am certain I have seen her face before. I fancy she is in love, and running away from her friends. Who knows but some young gentleman or other may be expecting her, with a heart as heavy as her own?"

Jones fetched a heavy sigh at those words; of which, though Mrs Waters observed it, she took no notice while the landlady continued in the room; but, after the departure of that good woman, she could not forbear giving our heroe certain hints on her suspecting some very dangerous rival in his affections. The aukward behaviour of Mr Jones on this occasion convinced her of the truth, without his giving her a direct answer to any of her questions; but she was not nice enough in her amours to be greatly concerned at the discovery. The beauty of Jones highly charmed her eye; but as she could not see his heart, she gave herself no concern about it. She could feast heartily at the table of love, without reflecting that some other already had been, or hereafter might be, feasted with the same repast. A sentiment which, if it deals but little in refinement, deals, however, much in substance; and is less capricious, and perhaps less ill-natured and selfish, than the desires of those females who can be contented enough to abstain from the possession of their lovers, provided they are sufficiently satisfied that no one else possesses them.