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J. C. (John Collis) Snaith.

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office himself. A fresh relay of wine was brought, and our glasses
were filled up again. Sitting here in the midst of these insidious
allurements, well found in all bodily comfort and good companionship,
it needed but a corresponding ease of mind to be as perfectly content
as Mr. Fielding himself. I had been most providentially delivered from
a very real and immediate peril, had contributed to the saving of eight
poor people from the gallows, and had exchanged the cold night for a
far happier sanctuary; but with all this, I was nearly at the verge of
despair. Where was Cynthia? What had happened to that poor child, and
how could we hope to come together again! Neither of us knew in which
direction the other had gone; and to search for each other in that dark
night was clearly impossible, seeing how complete was our ignorance of
the neighbouring country.

In my distraught state I mentioned my unhappy case to Mr. Fielding.
He, with the sanguine temper that seemed to be so strangely
characteristic of him, pooh-poohed my fears, and swore that all would
come right by the morning.

"I will wager you the last guinea I have got in the world," says he,
"which by the way I borrowed from Tommie to bear me back to Fleet
Street to-morrow, that you will see her pretty face in this parlour
before you are prepared to leave it. Why, man, if she hath any wit at
all she will remain with the gypsies until they discover whither you
have been taken, and then she will come to Tommie with a mighty long
tale and a mighty heart-moving countenance. I suppose it is that my
wit runs wonderfully clear to-night, for I confess I can see the whole
course of this matter as plain as the back of my hand."

Mr. Fielding declared his opinions with such an energy, that in spite
of myself I half subscribed to them. Indeed, as he pointed out,
nothing could be done by repining. But as he followed up this last
sage reflection in a manner peculiarly his own, no less than by the
opening of a new bottle, I am not sure that the occasion itself was not
the source of his wisdom. "_Vino diffigiunt mordaces curæ_," says he,
"an old, old tag, but a monstrous good one. Come, my dear fellow, do
not spoil the excellent impression you have already made. I am sure to
mump and moan is not in you; besides, you would be the last to have
yourself numbered among the Tommies of the world, the half-bottle men.
You are capable to bear me company for many an hour yet. Come, let us
grapple with melancholy and put him to sleep."

I was in such a state of maudlin misery by this, thanks to the wine I
had already drunk, and my dubious speculation in regard to Cynthia,
that I soon fell a-prey to Mr. Fielding's importuning. That lusty
full-blooded fellow was not to be denied. As I accepted glass after
glass of the insidious liquor from his hands, I felt my resolution
weaken as of old, and that same sense of large content and utter
heedlessness of the morrow steal upon me. As my brain grew hotter and
heavier and less capable of thinking and doing, Cynthia's absence grew
less poignant to it, and my own situation of the moment more perfectly
acceptable. It was truly Elysian to sit in this warm room and in this
mellow society, after having been without a roof to one's head and in
such peril for so many hours. The sense of abandoning oneself by slow
degrees and against one's proper judgment to this forbidden pleasure,
was fraught with a delight that it is only in the power of the illicit
to bestow. At the same time that I knew Mr. Fielding's point of view
was specious and worthless, _vide_ the teachings of a bitter
experience, I could hardly find it in my heart to resist his wit, the
compliment of his good-fellowship, his whole-hearted gaiety. He was
such a lovable spirit that he would have seduced the first of the
Pharisees to hang with him at Tyburn, for the sake of the
companionship. It would have taken sterner stuff than was ever in me
to deny or resist him.

It was not long before the justice was so overcome by the contents of
his cellar that he drooped his head on the table and straightway fell
fast asleep. Mr. Fielding, who was himself so seasoned that his face
hardly shone as yet, laughed, and says with a kind of kingly pity:

"What a penny-halfpenny haberdasher of a man it is! _C'est un vrai
épicier_. Strip him of his paunch, his purse, and his knighthood, and
there remains one who hath no more parts than a Presbyterian. If I
were old Sir John, I would undertake to make a better man out of a
cheese paring. It is a pretty behaviour in him, when we are sitting at
this table, bearing ourselves so gallantly before his claret. But
after all, I would prefer that his honour should speak with his nose
rather than with his mouth. Both organs are equally witty; and we are
under no obligation to answer his lustiest performances in that style."

It was not long before I began to feel some inklings of a disposition
to imitate Sir Thomas. Fortunately Mr. Fielding did not observe it in
me; and he on his side was so brisk and jovial-hearted that he easily
found enough of conversation for us both. And he was so prolific that
I am sure he would have been the last to notice it. My bosom was no
longer torn with the same pain when my thoughts reverted to Cynthia.
My wits were so deadened that I had a sort of sweet sorrow instead; the
sorrow whose expression is an amiable snuffling melancholy, and a
tender reflection on the days that are past. I was fast sinking into
the depths of this maudlin condition, when a diversion occurred that
mercifully kept me from it, even as my mind tottered on the brink. A
servant entered with the information that a woman was at the hall door
demanding to see the justice on a most particular business. In an
instant a great possibility possessed me completely, and startled me
out of the bibulous lassitude that was creeping upon me.

"What kind of a woman?" I asked eagerly, "A very beautiful woman, a
most adorably beautiful woman, with the voice of a nightingale and as
dainty in her carriage as, as - - Fielding, an you love me, give me a
simile - as dainty as - - "

"The swift Camilla," says he instantly, "the virgin Volscian queen, as
she

'Flies o'er th' unbending corn, or skims along the main,'

in the crude language of the crookbacked Twickenham bard. If you were
not so drunk I would give it you in Virgil's eleganter tongue."

"I don't know what the female's like in her carriage," says the fellow,
regarding us both with a very natural bewilderment, "for she's not come
in no carriage, do you see. She's come afoot. But she's a shortish
wench, with a pert tongue, and she's a-crying like fun."

Prosaic as this description was, and sensibly differing as it did from
the one I had furnished, I was sure that the female was no other than
Cynthia. That there could be other shortish wenches in the world with
pert tongues, who were capable of crying like fun, never entered my
head. It may have been that I had so continually brooded on her fate,
or the guilt of my conscience was so keen as to lead me to this
conclusion on such slender grounds. Relieved as I was, I yet had some
twinges of contrition. Despite my heavy-witted state I was fully alive
to it, and mightily uneasy as to the figure I must make in her eyes.

"A pretty kettle of fish," says I, "that I should be as drunk - - "

"As a lord," suggested Mr. Fielding.

"As drunk as a lord on our wedding-day. I pray you have pity on my
state, sir, and help me out as much as you can."

"My dear fellow," says Mr. Fielding, "this is no sort of talk. It is
unworthy of you. Why, nothing could have been better contrived, sir.
Can anything be more commendable than that a man should begin as he
means to go on. One cannot begin too soon to bring up one's wife
properly."

"Poor little toad," says I. "When she sees me like this I am sure she
will weep more bitterly."

"Hath she never seen you drunk before?" says Fielding.

"Never," says I.

"It is time she did then," says he. "But after all, as it is your
wedding-day there may be some little reason for your perturbation. She
is still the first woman in Christendom, I suppose, and you are still
the true prince. It can contribute nothing to the welfare of either
for you to be seen at such little advantage. Get thee behind the
screen there and leave this to me."

Having still enough wit to be fully aware of my unfortunate condition;
and being at the same time assailed with many pangs for having so
callously sat down to my ease before the bottle, whilst I was seemingly
content to allow her to roam the night to find me, I felt truly
shamefaced and hangdog. I was but too ready therefore to embrace any
proposal that might alleviate my position. Certainly Mr. Fielding had
a much better command of himself than I had, and was therefore much
more fitted to receive her. Besides, I was so deeply imbued with my
desperate case that I counted on his ready wit to shield me from an
exposure.

Therefore I stumbled into concealment behind the screen, and drunk as I
was, I was sufficiently sober to follow and to keenly appreciate the
whimsical scene that was enacted before my eyes. Sir Thomas being
hopelessly surrendered to Morpheus, Mr. Fielding profanely assumed his
character. But at least the mad rogue played it with a far finer
spirit and _abandon_ than the justice could have done. When my poor
little Cynthia was ushered in, for she it was undoubtedly, he rose,
gout and all, to greet her, and bowed very low.

"Pray take a seat, madam, pray take a seat," says he, with an
inimitable gesture of politeness. "And if there is any small service
that you would have me render you you have only to put a name to it,
and you may consider it rendered."

My poor little one, who was very pale and trembled with apprehension,
peered out of the hood of her cloak with the tears still in her eyes.
Despite Mr. Fielding's obvious gallantry she gazed at him with a dim
distrust, and then cast a look of downright fearfulness in the
direction of the heavy-slumbering Sir Thomas. It was the first time I
had been in a situation to observe these feminine timidities in her,
and methought they enhanced her a hundredfold.

"I would not have you regard that fuddle-witted fellow, madam," says
Mr. Fielding, mad wag as he was. "He is but a common hackney writer of
a man, Henry Fielding by name, who hath come out of Grub Street to take
the country air. And the country air hath proved too strong for him,
do you see. Do not regard that fellow, madam: believe me he is quite
unworthy of your attention."

The excess of chivalry with which this was uttered did something to
compose poor Cynthia; though why such flummery should have imposed upon
her I cannot tell. Even a parcel of lies, if it is made up into the
semblance of a delicate attention, can do a great work with that sex,
apparently. Anyhow, Cynthia sufficiently overcame her trepidation to
find the courage to ask:

"Are you Sir Thomas Wheatley, sir?"

"You can call me that, madam," says Mr. Fielding.

"Then do you know anything of my - my husband?" says Cynthia.

"Your husband, madam," says he. "I did not know that you had a
husband. Since when have you had a husband, madam?"

At this point Cynthia blushed divinely. All her proverbial pertness
was fled. The situation was too great for the foibles she had
acquired. She stood forth in her strange predicament just a simple
rustic maid, who longed to express her misery in tears, but was too
proud to do so. Thus, with an ingenuousness that I had never observed
in her before, she faltered:

"Since - since this morning, sir."

"Since this morning, madam," says Fielding, "and you have lost him
already. Is it credible? He did not leave you at the church door, I
hope."

"He did not leave me at all, sir," says Cynthia.

"Then if he did not leave you at all, madam, why is he not with you
now?" says Mr. Fielding.

Little by little, with numberless hesitations and small attempts at
concealment on her part, and many sly quips and verbal quibbles on his
own, the roguish fellow drew out of her a fair account of the state of
the case. Cynthia's anxiety to conceal her husband's name and how he
came to be placed in such an unhappy pass, afforded Mr. Fielding a
great deal of pleasure. He was continually springing awkward questions
upon her with a wonderful appearance of judicial innocence; and to
observe the unfortunate chit wriggle and contort herself out of many an
awkward corner was as good as a play. It was a cruel sport, perhaps,
and I half thought it so at the time; but I am sure Fielding did not
hold it to be such, for I do not think it was in him wittingly to give
pain to anyone. This whimsical by-play was really directed against me,
for when he had got her into a more than usually tight corner he would
look at me, as I frowned at him from my hiding-place, with a face that
dared me to intervene.

"I am afraid, madam," says Fielding, "you are not dealing with me quite
fairly. I must really assure you that this repeated and noticeable
concealment - I can use no less explicit term - of your husband's name is
most embarrassing. With the best will in the world to serve your
interests, and to aid you to the extent of my poor ability, how can I
give you any information about your husband if you will not take me far
enough into your confidence to vouchsafe me his name? Even though I am
a justice of the peace, I do not pretend to any supernatural knowledge.
I am no mystery-reader, nor a worker of miracles."

Poor Cynthia's dilemma was desperate. She did not know how to act. I
shook my fist at the wicked wag, and began to wish heartily that I had
not added to my other weaknesses by shirking the consequences of them.
I longed to come to her aid. But I had less desire than ever to expose
myself now; and after all here was a very pretty comedy.

"Come, come, madam," says Mr. Fielding. "I would not have you trifle
with justice in this manner. What is your husband's name?"

"His name is Smith," says she at last, taking the name we had been
married in.

The pseudo-justice expressed his disappointment. He grieved to say
that to the best of his knowledge no person of that name had called
upon him that evening.

"But he was among the gypsies that were brought to your house this
evening," Cynthia persisted. "What is become of them?"

"Is your husband a gypsy, madam?" says he. "I should have thought it
not at all likely, to judge by the appearance of his wife?"

"No, he is not," says she.

"Then why is he concerned with gypsies in such a scandalous charge?"

At every turn the mischievous fellow contrived some new means of
embarrassing her story; and at the same time he embarrassed my patience
also, as he very well knew. But it was quite in vain for me to publish
my threats from behind the screen. Both of us were delivered into his
hands.

"I am disappointed that he was among the gypsies, madam," says he,
"since they were discharged and sent away several hours ago."

"Oh," says Cynthia eagerly, "how glad I am to hear that!" But then her
face fell. "How may I find him?" she says, very anxiously.

"Nay, madam," says Fielding, "that is more than I can tell. But I am
disappointed to hear that his name is Smith. You are sure his name is
Smith, madam?"

Cynthia hesitated between hope and fear. Could it be possible that my
true name had been discovered, and that concealment was no longer
desirable or necessary?

"It is most strange, madam," says her relentless persecutor, "that you
should not be certain of the name of your own husband. I suppose you
could not by any chance have made a mistake in regard to the name of
him?"

"I might have done," poor Cynthia faltered; whilst I felt such an
overpowering desire to execute a prompt vengeance on the wretch that it
was as much as I could do to remain in my seclusion.

"Well, if you might have done," says he, "his name could not by any
chance have begun with a 'T.' Could his name be something like 'Tivy,'
or 'Tantivy'?"

Poor Mrs. Cynthia had completely lost her bearings by this. She was
utterly nonplussed, and looked at the wicked Fielding as helplessly as
a child. She was still unable to overcome her scruples about revealing
my real name. To do so to a justice of the peace of all people in the
world was like to be a most imprudent act. But at the same time she
could not rid her mind of the thought that he already knew more than he
would tell.

"Tivy or Trivy or Tantivy," says Mr. Fielding; "you are sure his name
is nothing of that sort? Now could it by any chance be Tiverton?"

At this mention of my name Cynthia was unable to go further with her
imposture. With a face of much confusion and distress she made the
confession.

"Well, madam," says Mr. Fielding reproachfully, "why could you not have
said so at once without so much beating about the bush? Really the
name of Smith was too facile, too obvious. Now as it happens, I am in
a position to know where my Lord Tiverton is."

"Oh, sir," says Cynthia, clasping her hands, "I beseech you to tell me
of his whereabouts."

"Yes, my dear madam," says Mr. Fielding, "that I will, on one
condition."

Mrs. Cynthia eagerly asked it.

"That you give me a kiss," says Mr. Fielding. "I vow and protest,
madam, I never saw a creature more divinely handsome."

My breath was almost taken away by the audacity of the villain, as I
fear he had intended that it should be. But what could I contribute to
the situation beyond a few impotent threats, made in dumb show? I was
never had at a greater disadvantage in my life? It was in vain that
Cynthia evaded the demand, and besought him by the name of humanity to
tell her where I lay. The spirit of mischief in the fellow, inflamed
by the quantity of wine he had drunk, caused him to brook no denial.

"Come, my dear madam," says he, "one kiss from those dainty lips is all
I seek. Then i'faith shall you know where your husband lies."

"You are no gentleman, sir," says Cynthia, with more spirit than she
had yet shown.

"No, only a justice of the peace," says he.

"It is cruel of you," says Cynthia, flaming, "to drive such a bargain
in these circumstances. You know it is not in my power to say you nay
when so much is at stake."

"To be sure I do," says he, favouring me with a triumphing look. "And
as for the cruelty of it, surely the onus of that matter lies with you.
Is it not your adorable sex that provokes that which it denies? It is
ever a point with me that if I can ever take any little revenge upon
you, I take it with an easy conscience, knowing full well that you
beauteous ladies have scored up such a heavy tally of cruelties as can
never be expunged. Besides, madam, where is this cruelty you speak of?
Am I not at least as well favoured as this ugly profligate Lord
Tiverton of yours; and is there not the additional advantage of my not
being your lawful wedded husband?"

"I would that Lord Tiverton were here to hear you say this," says
Cynthia indignantly.

"Bah," says Mr. Fielding, "the water-blooded fellow, I would that he
were too, then I with five pints of good claret in me would prove upon
his miserable person how mean a figure he doth cut."

It was with the utmost difficulty that I could hold back at this
challenge. I might be very drunk, and therefore doubly disposed to
resent such wanton insults; but I was also sober enough to be aware
that they were not prompted by ill-nature. It was a piece of mischief
merely. We were entirely at his mercy, and he proposed to torment us
to death. Could a fourth person have witnessed this play, he would
have found it a truly diverting affair. First Cynthia was made to
writhe, and then I; and then both of us together; yet at the same time
each quite unknown to the other; whilst the audacious rogue of a fellow
mocked at us both, and defied us to prevent ourselves being made
ridiculous. The unfortunate Cynthia was led on by his disparagement of
me to take up the cudgels warmly on my behalf. The sly look of
satisfaction that shone in him when she did so, was proof enough, if
any were needed, that she was still ministering to his diversion.

"I give you the lie there, sir," says she angrily. "How dare you
presume to malign such a noble brave gentleman! You utter behind his
back that which you dare not utter to his face."

"Good a thousand times," says Mr. Fielding. "This is delightful.
Harkee, my noble, brave gentleman, and tell me if I do not utter it to
your face!"

I clenched my fists; I vowed to myself I would not suffer this impudent
sport another minute. But then there was no gainsaying that I was
abominably drunk; that my pretty innocent was but a child; and that it
was our wedding-day. Come what may, I must bear with the fellow's mad
humour for the present, and requite him in a more seasonable hour.

Cynthia might be angry and I extremely discomposed, but Mr. Fielding
still pressed his jest.

"No, madam, I will not be put off with your arrogance," says he. "I
demand one token from those charming lips as the price of the
satisfaction that you seek."

Covered with a modest confusion, Cynthia was preparing to comply with
this demand unwillingly enough, when I was no longer able to contain my
just resentment. Whatever the consequences, we should not be flouted
so. Therefore as the impudent fellow was in the very act of forcing
this concession from her, I threw caution to the winds, and sprang
forth from my concealment in a violent rage. I aimed a mighty blow at
Mr. Fielding's head; but what with my impetuosity, combined with my
drunken condition, I miscalculated the distance sadly, and instead of
getting home on that audacious person, missed him entirely, and fell
full length at Cynthia's feet.

Between her distressed exclamations and Mr. Fielding's immoderate
laughter I was got up again, to find myself a little sobered by the
fall. With a joyful recognition of me, and a truly withering glance of
contempt for Mr. Fielding, neither of which I can positively depict,
Cynthia fell into my arms, and showered upon me those salutes Mr.
Fielding had been so importunate to obtain. But I must confess that I
received them with a great deal more of shame than pleasure; for Mr.
Fielding regarded us with such a degree of boisterousness, that the
bitter fact suddenly came upon me that in my guilt I had committed her
to the tender mercies of a person even more drunk than I was myself.




CHAPTER XIV

AMANTIUM IRÆ

"Curse my jacket," says the drunken fellow, "if this is not the first
time I have kissed a wife in the presence of her husband."

"It shall be the last, sir," I hiccoughed furiously.

"What words are these to use before a lady?" says Mr. Fielding, amiably
measuring out glasses of wine for the three of us. "If I were not the
most easy man in the world, I vow and protest it should be coffee and
pistols at five."

"By God, sir, it shall be whatever you are," says I, holding on by the
table. "I swear I will pup - punish you for this."

"Well, as you are determined to pup - punish me," says he, "here is
another glass of Tommie's claret, another hair of the dog that bit you,
to confirm you in that meritorious resolve."

As he laughingly offered me the glass of wine, Cynthia came forward and
took it from him. But instead of giving it to me, she flung both the
wine and the glass in his face. Whereon he stood with the claret
dripping from his features, and the blood too where the broken glass
had cut his forehead, so that he made the very picture of his own
Parson Adams, when he was assailed in a similar way by the hostess of
the inn with the pan of hog's blood.

Poor Cynthia stood white and trembling, but she never once looked at me
for counsel or countenance. The tears were in her eyes too, but she
never uttered so much as a word of reproach, although I am sure her
misery was very great. I never felt such a mean villain and coward in
my life as I did then.

"Come," says she, "let us leave these - these people."

Here she threw such a glance at the sleeping justice that must have
pierced him to the marrow had he but been conscious of it. By this,
however, Mr. Fielding with the aid of his silk handkerchief had wiped a
good deal of the wine and blood from his features, and stood staunching
the wound on his forehead. A more truly whimsical expression I never
observed in any man before. There was a highly comic look of
contrition, humility, and self-abnegation in him, and withal an air of


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