A night scene, wherein several wonderful adventures befel Adams and his fellow-travellers.
It was so late when our travellers left the inn or alehouse (for it might be called either), that they had not travelled many miles before night overtook them, or met them, which you please. The reader must excuse me if I am not particular as to the way they took; for, as we are now drawing near the seat of the Boobies, and as that is a ticklish name, which malicious persons may apply, according to their evil inclinations, to several worthy country squires, a race of men whom we look upon as entirely inoffensive, and for whom we have an adequate regard, we shall lend no assistance to any such malicious purposes.
Darkness had now overspread the hemisphere, when Fanny whispered Joseph "that she begged to rest herself a little; for that she was so tired she could walk no farther." Joseph immediately prevailed with parson Adams, who was as brisk as a bee, to stop. He had no sooner seated himself than he lamented the loss of his dear Aeschylus; but was a little comforted when reminded that, if he had it in his possession, he could not see to read.
The sky was so clouded, that not a star appeared. It was indeed, according to Milton, darkness visible. This was a circumstance, however, very favourable to Joseph; for Fanny, not suspicious of being overseen by Adams, gave a loose to her passion which she had never done before, and, reclining her head on his bosom, threw her arm carelessly round him, and suffered him to lay his cheek close to hers. All this infused such happiness into Joseph, that he would not have changed his turf for the finest down in the finest palace in the universe.
Adams sat at some distance from the lovers, and, being unwilling to disturb them, applied himself to meditation; in which he had not spent much time before he discovered a light at some distance that seemed approaching towards him. He immediately hailed it; but, to his sorrow and surprize, it stopped for a moment, and then disappeared. He then called to Joseph, asking him, "if he had not seen the light?" Joseph answered, "he had." — "And did you not mark how it vanished?" returned he: "though I am not afraid of ghosts, I do not absolutely disbelieve them."
He then entered into a meditation on those unsubstantial beings; which was soon interrupted by several voices, which he thought almost at his elbow, though in fact they were not so extremely near. However, he could distinctly hear them agree on the murder of any one they met; and a little after heard one of them say, "he had killed a dozen since that day fortnight."
Adams now fell on his knees, and committed himself to the care of Providence; and poor Fanny, who likewise heard those terrible words, embraced Joseph so closely, that had not he, whose ears were also open, been apprehensive on her account, he would have thought no danger which threatened only himself too dear a price for such embraces.
Joseph now drew forth his penknife, and Adams, having finished his ejaculations, grasped his crab-stick, his only weapon, and, coming up to Joseph, would have had him quit Fanny, and place her in the rear; but his advice was fruitless; she clung closer to him, not at all regarding the presence of Adams, and in a soothing voice declared, "she would die in his arms." Joseph, clasping her with inexpressible eagerness, whispered her, "that he preferred death in hers to life out of them." Adams, brandishing his crabstick, said, "he despised death as much as any man," and then repeated aloud —
"Est hic, est animus lucis contemptor et illum, Qui vita bene credat emi quo tendis, honorem."
Upon this the voices ceased for a moment, and then one of them called out, "D — n you, who is there?" To which Adams was prudent enough to make no reply; and of a sudden he observed half-a-dozen lights, which seemed to rise all at once from the ground and advance briskly towards him. This he immediately concluded to be an apparition; and now, beginning to conceive that the voices were of the same kind, he called out, "In the name of the L — d, what wouldst thou have?" He had no sooner spoke than he heard one of the voices cry out, "D — n them, here they come;" and soon after heard several hearty blows, as if a number of men had been engaged at quarterstaff. He was just advancing towards the place of combat, when Joseph, catching him by the skirts, begged him that they might take the opportunity of the dark to convey away Fanny from the danger which threatened her. He presently complied, and, Joseph lifting up Fanny, they all three made the best of their way; and without looking behind them, or being overtaken, they had travelled full two miles, poor Fanny not once complaining of being tired, when they saw afar off several lights scattered at a small distance from each other, and at the same time found themselves on the descent of a very steep hill. Adams's foot slipping, he instantly disappeared, which greatly frightened both Joseph and Fanny: indeed, if the light had permitted them to see it, they would scarce have refrained laughing to see the parson rolling down the hill; which he did from top to bottom, without receiving any harm. He then hollowed as loud as he could, to inform them of his safety, and relieve them from the fears which they had conceived for him. Joseph and Fanny halted some time, considering what to do; at last they advanced a few paces, where the declivity seemed least steep; and then Joseph, taking his Fanny in his arms, walked firmly down the hill, without making a false step, and at length landed her at the bottom, where Adams soon came to them.