Henry Fielding: The History of Tom Jones, a foundling

2. Chapter ii. Containing letters and other matters... (continued)

To the men of intrigue I refer the determination, whether the angry or the tender letter gave the greatest uneasiness to Jones. Certain it is, he had no violent inclination to pay any more visits that evening, unless to one single person. However, he thought his honour engaged, and had not this been motive sufficient, he would not have ventured to blow the temper of Lady Bellaston into that flame of which he had reason to think it susceptible, and of which he feared the consequence might be a discovery to Sophia, which he dreaded. After some discontented walks therefore about the room, he was preparing to depart, when the lady kindly prevented him, not by another letter, but by her own presence. She entered the room very disordered in her dress, and very discomposed in her looks, and threw herself into a chair, where, having recovered her breath, she said--"You see, sir, when women have gone one length too far, they will stop at none. If any person would have sworn this to me a week ago, I would not have believed it of myself." "I hope, madam," said Jones, "my charming Lady Bellaston will be as difficult to believe anything against one who is so sensible of the many obligations she hath conferred upon him." "Indeed!" says she, "sensible of obligations! Did I expect to hear such cold language from Mr Jones?" "Pardon me, my dear angel," said he, "if, after the letters I have received, the terrors of your anger, though I know not how I have deserved it."--"And have I then," says she, with a smile, "so angry a countenance?--Have I really brought a chiding face with me?"--"If there be honour in man," said he, "I have done nothing to merit your anger.--You remember the appointment you sent me; I went in pursuance."--"I beseech you," cried she, "do not run through the odious recital.--Answer me but one question, and I shall be easy. Have you not betrayed my honour to her?"--Jones fell upon his knees, and began to utter the most violent protestations, when Partridge came dancing and capering into the room, like one drunk with joy, crying out, "She's found! she's found!--Here, sir, here, she's here--Mrs Honour is upon the stairs." "Stop her a moment," cries Jones--"Here, madam, step behind the bed, I have no other room nor closet, nor place on earth to hide you in; sure never was so damned an accident."--"D--n'd indeed!" said the lady, as she went to her place of concealment; and presently afterwards in came Mrs Honour. "Hey-day!" says she, "Mr Jones, what's the matter?--That impudent rascal your servant would scarce let me come upstairs. I hope he hath not the same reason to keep me from you as he had at Upton.--I suppose you hardly expected to see me; but you have certainly bewitched my lady. Poor dear young lady! To be sure, I loves her as tenderly as if she was my own sister. Lord have mercy upon you, if you don't make her a good husband! and to be sure, if you do not, nothing can be bad enough for you." Jones begged her only to whisper, for that there was a lady dying in the next room. "A lady!" cries she; "ay, I suppose one of your ladies.--O Mr Jones, there are too many of them in the world; I believe we are got into the house of one, for my Lady Bellaston I darst to say is no better than she should be."--"Hush! hush!" cries Jones, "every word is overheard in the next room." "I don't care a farthing," cries Honour, "I speaks no scandal of any one; but to be sure the servants make no scruple of saying as how her ladyship meets men at another place--where the house goes under the name of a poor gentlewoman; but her ladyship pays the rent, and many's the good thing besides, they say, she hath of her."--Here Jones, after expressing the utmost uneasiness, offered to stop her mouth:--"Hey-day! why sure, Mr Jones, you will let me speak; I speaks no scandal, for I only says what I heard from others--and thinks I to myself, much good may it do the gentlewoman with her riches, if she comes by it in such a wicked manner. To be sure it is better to be poor and honest." "The servants are villains," cries Jones, "and abuse their lady unjustly."--"Ay, to be sure, servants are always villains, and so my lady says, and won't hear a word of it."--"No, I am convinced," says Jones, "my Sophia is above listening to such base scandal." "Nay, I believe it is no scandal, neither," cries Honour, "for why should she meet men at another house?--It can never be for any good: for if she had a lawful design of being courted, as to be sure any lady may lawfully give her company to men upon that account: why, where can be the sense?"--"I protest," cries Jones, "I can't hear all this of a lady of such honour, and a relation of Sophia; besides, you will distract the poor lady in the next room.--Let me entreat you to walk with me down stairs."--"Nay, sir, if you won't let me speak, I have done.--Here, sir, is a letter from my young lady--what would some men give to have this? But, Mr Jones, I think you are not over and above generous, and yet I have heard some servants say----but I am sure you will do me the justice to own I never saw the colour of your money." Here Jones hastily took the letter, and presently after slipped five pieces into her hand. He then returned a thousand thanks to his dear Sophia in a whisper, and begged her to leave him to read her letter: she presently departed, not without expressing much grateful sense of his generosity.

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