Henry Fielding: The History of Tom Jones, a foundling

6. Chapter vi. A friendly conversation in the kitchen...

A friendly conversation in the kitchen, which had a very common, though not very friendly, conclusion.

While our lovers were entertaining themselves in the manner which is partly described in the foregoing chapter, they were likewise furnishing out an entertainment for their good friends in the kitchen. And this in a double sense, by affording them matter for their conversation, and, at the same time, drink to enliven their spirits.

There were now assembled round the kitchen fire, besides my landlord and landlady, who occasionally went backward and forward, Mr Partridge, the serjeant, and the coachman who drove the young lady and her maid.

Partridge having acquainted the company with what he had learnt from the Man of the Hill concerning the situation in which Mrs Waters had been found by Jones, the serjeant proceeded to that part of her history which was known to him. He said she was the wife of Mr Waters, who was a captain in their regiment, and had often been with him at quarters. "Some folks," says he, "used indeed to doubt whether they were lawfully married in a church or no. But, for my part, that's no business of mine: I must own, if I was put to my corporal oath, I believe she is little better than one of us; and I fancy the captain may go to heaven when the sun shines upon a rainy day. But if he does, that is neither here nor there; for he won't want company. And the lady, to give the devil his due, is a very good sort of lady, and loves the cloth, and is always desirous to do strict justice to it; for she hath begged off many a poor soldier, and, by her good-will, would never have any of them punished. But yet, to be sure, Ensign Northerton and she were very well acquainted together at our last quarters; that is the very right and truth of the matter. But the captain he knows nothing about it; and as long as there is enough for him too, what does it signify? He loves her not a bit the worse, and I am certain would run any man through the body that was to abuse her; therefore I won't abuse her, for my part. I only repeat what other folks say; and, to be certain, what everybody says, there must be some truth in."--"Ay, ay, a great deal of truth, I warrant you," cries Partridge; "Veritas odium parit"--"All a parcel of scandalous stuff," answered the mistress of the house. "I am sure, now she is drest, she looks like a very good sort of lady, and she behaves herself like one; for she gave me a guinea for the use of my cloaths."--"A very good lady indeed!" cries the landlord; "and if you had not been a little too hasty, you would not have quarrelled with her as you did at first."--"You need mention that with my truly!" answered she: "if it had not been for your nonsense, nothing had happened. You must be meddling with what did not belong to you, and throw in your fool's discourse."--"Well, well," answered he; "what's past cannot be mended, so there's an end of the matter."--"Yes," cries she, "for this once; but will it be mended ever the more hereafter? This is not the first time I have suffered for your numscull's pate. I wish you would always hold your tongue in the house, and meddle only in matters without doors, which concern you. Don't you remember what happened about seven years ago?"--"Nay, my dear," returned he, "don't rip up old stories. Come, come, all's well, and I am sorry for what I have done." The landlady was going to reply, but was prevented by the peace-making serjeant, sorely to the displeasure of Partridge, who was a great lover of what is called fun, and a great promoter of those harmless quarrels which tend rather to the production of comical than tragical incidents.

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