Another Tom Jones 

 

From a procrastinate Tom Jones, Book II, Chapter 2:

“To deny that beauty is an agreeable object to the eye, and even worthy of some admiration, would be false and foolish. Is not Love like candy on a shelf? You want to taste and help yourself, do you not?” The Reverend began to warm to his theme, particularly as the question of Mrs. Quiver’s recent escapades required extensive commentary and earnest moral reflection. “Mind you, it’s not unusual to be loved by anyone. Nor is it not unusual to have fun with anyone.”

Let us briefly at this moment, dear reader, note how the Reverend was in no way oblivious to the true factitious presence of the lady in question. Her breathing–dare we go further and suspect panting–presence was tempting the periphery of his homiletic sights even as he nudged his arguments toward the politely non-disputable. “It’s not unusual to be mad with anyone. It’s not unusual to be sad with anyone.”

“And yet.” Mr. Norbutwait could not resist the opportunity for interjection. “She’s the kind I’d like to flaunt and take to dinner.” In his urgency he seemed most unaware that his punctuation of the Reverend’s disquisition had become a confession. He became transformed. “And she always knows her place. She’s got style. She’s got grace. She’s a winner.”

Alas, poor Norbutwait at this moment was a plaything of his humours. Mrs. Quiver’s eyes, however, betrayed nothing, and the Reverend’s extemporizing was not to be eclipsed by such fevered tender display. “We’re always told repeatedly, the very best in life is free and if you want to prove it’s true, baby I’m telling you, this is what you should do.”

The Reverend seemed to reverse course at this moment, and are you not, patient reader, wholly relieved. “These matters are of a very delicate nature, and the scruples of modesty should compel us, nay command us, even with our knowing it is never modesty’s place to command.”

We may discern the Reverend’s precipitous halt is noted by Mrs. Quiver, whose eyes catch the shuffling churchman’s at this point. It takes but the lady’s mouthing of a certain intimacy, “What’s new, Pussycat,” to Mr. Norbutwait’s surmise, to bring the Reverend toppling into an impromptu translation a certain passage from one of Horace’s lesser regarded eclogues:

Just help yourself to my lips
To my arms just say the word, and they are yours
Just help yourself to the love,
In my heart your smile has opened up the door.

“O, dear lady, I long simply to touch the green, green grass of home.” The Reverend, falling upon his knees with this expostulation, gathered a portion of Mrs. Quiver’s skirt in his hands and began mopping his brow.

“But to make this the sole consideration of marriage,” said Lady Quiver, laying a hand upon the shoulders of the dear Reverend, shoulders that continued to lurch in tearful confession, “to lust after it so violently as to overlook all imperfections for its sake, or to require it so absolutely as to reject and disdain religion, virtue, and sense, which are qualities in their nature of much higher perfection, only because an elegance of person is wanting: this is surely inconsistent, either with a wise man or a good Christian. And this point I must come to Mr. Norbutwait’s defense. He always runs while others walk. He acts while other men just talk. He looks at this world, and wants it all.”

Mr. Norbutwait did not hesitate to take an opportunity so generously offered. “So I strike, like Thunderball.”

“O why, why, why Delilah,” was what the Reverend muttered as he rose to his feet.

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