Giving an account of the strange catastrophe of the preceding adventure, which drew poor Adams into fresh calamities; and who the woman was who owed the preservation of her chastity to his victorious arm.
The silence of Adams, added to the darkness of the night and loneliness of the place, struck dreadful apprehension into the poor woman's mind; she began to fear as great an enemy in her deliverer as he had delivered her from; and as she had not light enough to discover the age of Adams, and the benevolence visible in his countenance, she suspected he had used her as some very honest men have used their country; and had rescued her out of the hands of one rifler in order to rifle her himself. Such were the suspicions she drew from his silence; but indeed they were ill-grounded. He stood over his vanquished enemy, wisely weighing in his mind the objections which might be made to either of the two methods of proceeding mentioned in the last chapter, his judgment sometimes inclining to the one, and sometimes to the other; for both seemed to him so equally advisable and so equally dangerous, that probably he would have ended his days, at least two or three of them, on that very spot, before he had taken any resolution; at length he lifted up his eyes, and spied a light at a distance, to which he instantly addressed himself with Heus tu, traveller, heus tu! He presently heard several voices, and perceived the light approaching toward him. The persons who attended the light began some to laugh, others to sing, and others to hollow, at which the woman testified some fear (for she had concealed her suspicions of the parson himself); but Adams said, "Be of good cheer, damsel, and repose thy trust in the same Providence which hath hitherto protected thee, and never will forsake the innocent." These people, who now approached, were no other, reader, than a set of young fellows, who came to these bushes in pursuit of a diversion which they call bird-batting. This, if you are ignorant of it (as perhaps if thou hast never travelled beyond Kensington, Islington, Hackney, or the Borough, thou mayst be), I will inform thee, is performed by holding a large clap-net before a lanthorn, and at the same time beating the bushes; for the birds, when they are disturbed from their places of rest, or roost, immediately make to the light, and so are inticed within the net. Adams immediately told them what happened, and desired them to hold the lanthorn to the face of the man on the ground, for he feared he had smote him fatally. But indeed his fears were frivolous; for the fellow, though he had been stunned by the last blow he received, had long since recovered his senses, and, finding himself quit of Adams, had listened attentively to the discourse between him and the young woman; for whose departure he had patiently waited, that he might likewise withdraw himself, having no longer hopes of succeeding in his desires, which were moreover almost as well cooled by Mr Adams as they could have been by the young woman herself had he obtained his utmost wish. This fellow, who had a readiness at improving any accident, thought he might now play a better part than that of a dead man; and, accordingly, the moment the candle was held to his face he leapt up, and, laying hold on Adams, cried out, "No, villain, I am not dead, though you and your wicked whore might well think me so, after the barbarous cruelties you have exercised on me. Gentlemen," said he, "you are luckily come to the assistance of a poor traveller, who would otherwise have been robbed and murdered by this vile man and woman, who led me hither out of my way from the high-road, and both falling on me have used me as you see." Adams was going to answer, when one of the young fellows cried, "D — n them, let's carry them both before the justice." The poor woman began to tremble, and Adams lifted up his voice, but in vain. Three or four of them laid hands on him; and one holding the lanthorn to his face, they all agreed he had the most villainous countenance they ever beheld; and an attorney's clerk, who was of the company, declared he was sure he had remembered him at the bar. As to the woman, her hair was dishevelled in the struggle, and her nose had bled; so that they could not perceive whether she was handsome or ugly, but they said her fright plainly discovered her guilt. And searching her pockets, as they did those of Adams, for money, which the fellow said he had lost, they found in her pocket a purse with some gold in it, which abundantly convinced them, especially as the fellow offered to swear to it. Mr Adams was found to have no more than one halfpenny about him. This the clerk said "was a great presumption that he was an old offender, by cunningly giving all the booty to the woman." To which all the rest readily assented.
This accident promising them better sport than what they had proposed, they quitted their intention of catching birds, and unanimously resolved to proceed to the justice with the offenders. Being informed what a desperate fellow Adams was, they tied his hands behind him; and, having hid their nets among the bushes, and the lanthorn being carried before them, they placed the two prisoners in their front, and then began their march; Adams not only submitting patiently to his own fate, but comforting and encouraging his companion under her sufferings.
Whilst they were on their way the clerk informed the rest that this adventure would prove a very beneficial one; for that they would all be entitled to their proportions of L80 for apprehending the robbers. This occasioned a contention concerning the parts which they had severally borne in taking them; one insisting he ought to have the greatest share, for he had first laid his hands on Adams; another claiming a superior part for having first held the lanthorn to the man's face on the ground, by which, he said, "the whole was discovered." The clerk claimed four-fifths of the reward for having proposed to search the prisoners, and likewise the carrying them before the justice: he said, "Indeed, in strict justice, he ought to have the whole." These claims, however, they at last consented to refer to a future decision, but seemed all to agree that the clerk was entitled to a moiety. They then debated what money should be allotted to the young fellow who had been employed only in holding the nets. He very modestly said, "That he did not apprehend any large proportion would fall to his share, but hoped they would allow him something; he desired them to consider that they had assigned their nets to his care, which prevented him from being as forward as any in laying hold of the robbers" (for so those innocent people were called); "that if he had not occupied the nets, some other must;" concluding, however, "that he should be contented with the smallest share imaginable, and should think that rather their bounty than his merit." But they were all unanimous in excluding him from any part whatever, the clerk particularly swearing, "If they gave him a shilling they might do what they pleased with the rest; for he would not concern himself with the affair." This contention was so hot, and so totally engaged the attention of all the parties, that a dexterous nimble thief, had he been in Mr Adams's situation, would have taken care to have given the justice no trouble that evening. Indeed, it required not the art of a Sheppard to escape, especially as the darkness of the night would have so much befriended him; but Adams trusted rather to his innocence than his heels, and, without thinking of flight, which was easy, or resistance (which was impossible, as there were six lusty young fellows, besides the villain himself, present), he walked with perfect resignation the way they thought proper to conduct him.
Adams frequently vented himself in ejaculations during their journey; at last, poor Joseph Andrews occurring to his mind, he could not refrain sighing forth his name, which being heard by his companion in affliction, she cried with some vehemence, "Sure I should know that voice; you cannot certainly, sir, be Mr Abraham Adams?" — "Indeed, damsel," says he, "that is my name; there is something also in your voice which persuades me I have heard it before." — "La! sir," says she, "don't you remember poor Fanny?" — "How, Fanny!" answered Adams: "indeed I very well remember you; what can have brought you hither?" — "I have told you, sir," replied she, "I was travelling towards London; but I thought you mentioned Joseph Andrews; pray what is become of him?" — "I left him, child, this afternoon," said Adams, "in the stage-coach, in his way towards our parish, whither he is going to see you." — "To see me! La, sir," answered Fanny, "sure you jeer me; what should he be going to see me for?" — "Can you ask that?" replied Adams. "I hope, Fanny, you are not inconstant; I assure you he deserves much better of you." — "La! Mr Adams," said she, "what is Mr Joseph to me? I am sure I never had anything to say to him, but as one fellow-servant might to another." — "I am sorry to hear this," said Adams; "a virtuous passion for a young man is what no woman need be ashamed of. You either do not tell me truth, or you are false to a very worthy man." Adams then told her what had happened at the inn, to which she listened very attentively; and a sigh often escaped from her, notwithstanding her utmost endeavours to the contrary; nor could she prevent herself from asking a thousand questions, which would have assured any one but Adams, who never saw farther into people than they desired to let him, of the truth of a passion she endeavoured to conceal. Indeed, the fact was, that this poor girl, having heard of Joseph's misfortune, by some of the servants belonging to the coach which we have formerly mentioned to have stopt at the inn while the poor youth was confined to his bed, that instant abandoned the cow she was milking, and, taking with her a little bundle of clothes under her arm, and all the money she was worth in her own purse, without consulting any one, immediately set forward in pursuit of one whom, notwithstanding her shyness to the parson, she loved with inexpressible violence, though with the purest and most delicate passion. This shyness, therefore, as we trust it will recommend her character to all our female readers, and not greatly surprize such of our males as are well acquainted with the younger part of the other sex, we shall not give ourselves any trouble to vindicate.