Tom Jones Chapter vii.

In which Mr Western pays a visit to his sister, in company with Mr Blifil.

Mrs Western was reading a lecture on prudence, and matrimonial politics, to her niece, when her brother and Blifil broke in with less ceremony than the laws of visiting require. Sophia no sooner saw Blifil than she turned pale, and almost lost the use of all her faculties; but her aunt, on the contrary, waxed red, and, having all her faculties at command, began to exert her tongue on the squire.

“Brother,” said she, “I am astonished at your behaviour; will you never learn any regard to decorum? Will you still look upon every apartment as your own, or as belonging to one of your country tenants? Do you think yourself at liberty to invade the privacies of women of condition, without the least decency or notice?”——”Why, what a pox is the matter now?” quoth the squire; “one would think I had caught you at—”—”None of your brutality, sir, I beseech you,” answered she.——”You have surprized my poor niece so, that she can hardly, I see, support herself.——Go, my dear, retire, and endeavour to recruit your spirits; for I see you have occasion.” At which words Sophia, who never received a more welcome command, hastily withdrew.

“To be sure, sister,” cries the squire, “you are mad, when I have brought Mr Blifil here to court her, to force her away.”

“Sure, brother,” says she, “you are worse than mad, when you know in what situation affairs are, to——I am sure I ask Mr Blifil’s pardon, but he knows very well to whom to impute so disagreeable a reception. For my own part, I am sure I shall always be very glad to see Mr Blifil; but his own good sense would not have suffered him to proceed so abruptly, had you not compelled him to it.”

Blifil bowed and stammered, and looked like a fool; but Western, without giving him time to form a speech for the purpose, answered, “Well, well, I am to blame, if you will, I always am, certainly; but come, let the girl be fetched back again, or let Mr Blifil go to her.——He’s come up on purpose, and there is no time to be lost.”

“Brother,” cries Mrs Western, “Mr Blifil, I am confident, understands himself better than to think of seeing my niece any more this morning, after what hath happened. Women are of a nice contexture; and our spirits, when disordered, are not to be recomposed in a moment. Had you suffered Mr Blifil to have sent his compliments to my niece, and to have desired the favour of waiting on her in the afternoon, I should possibly have prevailed on her to have seen him; but now I despair of bringing about any such matter.”

“I am very sorry, madam,” cried Blifil, “that Mr Western’s extraordinary kindness to me, which I can never enough acknowledge, should have occasioned—” “Indeed, sir,” said she, interrupting him, “you need make no apologies, we all know my brother so well.”

“I don’t care what anybody knows of me,” answered the squire;——”but when must he come to see her? for, consider, I tell you, he is come up on purpose, and so is Allworthy.”—”Brother,” said she, “whatever message Mr Blifil thinks proper to send to my niece shall be delivered to her; and I suppose she will want no instructions to make a proper answer. I am convinced she will not refuse to see Mr Blifil at a proper time.”—”The devil she won’t!” answered the squire.—”Odsbud!—Don’t we know—I say nothing, but some volk are wiser than all the world.——If I might have had my will, she had not run away before: and now I expect to hear every moment she is guone again. For as great a fool as some volk think me, I know very well she hates——” “No matter, brother,” replied Mrs Western, “I will not hear my niece abused. It is a reflection on my family. She is an honour to it; and she will be an honour to it, I promise you. I will pawn my whole reputation in the world on her conduct.——I shall be glad to see you, brother, in the afternoon; for I have somewhat of importance to mention to you.—At present, Mr Blifil, as well as you, must excuse me; for I am in haste to dress.” “Well, but,” said the squire, “do appoint a time.” “Indeed,” said she, “I can appoint no time. I tell you I will see you in the afternoon.”—”What the devil would you have me do?” cries the squire, turning to Blifil; “I can no more turn her, than a beagle can turn an old hare. Perhaps she will be in a better humour in the afternoon.”—”I am condemned, I see, sir, to misfortune,” answered Blifil; “but I shall always own my obligations to you.” He then took a ceremonious leave of Mrs Western, who was altogether as ceremonious on her part; and then they departed, the squire muttering to himself with an oath, that Blifil should see his daughter in the afternoon.

If Mr Western was little pleased with this interview, Blifil was less. As to the former, he imputed the whole behaviour of his sister to her humour only, and to her dissatisfaction at the omission of ceremony in the visit; but Blifil saw a little deeper into things. He suspected somewhat of more consequence, from two or three words which dropt from the lady; and, to say the truth, he suspected right, as will appear when I have unfolded the several matters which will be contained in the following chapter.