Henry Fielding: The History of Tom Jones, a foundling

3. Chapter iii. Containing various matters. (continued)

"P.S.--I will endeavour to call on you this evening, at nine.--Be sure to be alone."

Mr Jones now received a visit from Mrs Miller, who, after some formal introduction, began the following speech:--"I am very sorry, sir, to wait upon you on such an occasion; but I hope you will consider the ill consequence which it must be to the reputation of my poor girls, if my house should once be talked of as a house of ill-fame. I hope you won't think me, therefore, guilty of impertinence, if I beg you not to bring any more ladies in at that time of night. The clock had struck two before one of them went away."--"I do assure you, madam," said Jones, "the lady who was here last night, and who staid the latest (for the other only brought me a letter), is a woman of very great fashion, and my near relation."--"I don't know what fashion she is of," answered Mrs Miller; "but I am sure no woman of virtue, unless a very near relation indeed, would visit a young gentleman at ten at night, and stay four hours in his room with him alone; besides, sir, the behaviour of her chairmen shows what she was; for they did nothing but make jests all the evening in the entry, and asked Mr Partridge, in the hearing of my own maid, if madam intended to stay with his master all night; with a great deal of stuff not proper to be repeated. I have really a great respect for you, Mr Jones, upon your own account; nay, I have a very high obligation to you for your generosity to my cousin. Indeed, I did not know how very good you had been till lately. Little did I imagine to what dreadful courses the poor man's distress had driven him. Little did I think, when you gave me the ten guineas, that you had given them to a highwayman! O heavens! what goodness have you shown! How have you preserved this family!--The character which Mr Allworthy hath formerly given me of you was, I find, strictly true.--And indeed, if I had no obligation to you, my obligations to him are such, that, on his account, I should shew you the utmost respect in my power.--Nay, believe me, dear Mr Jones, if my daughters' and my own reputation were out of the case, I should, for your own sake, be sorry that so pretty a young gentleman should converse with these women; but if you are resolved to do it, I must beg you to take another lodging; for I do not myself like to have such things carried on under my roof; but more especially upon the account of my girls, who have little, heaven knows, besides their characters, to recommend them." Jones started and changed colour at the name of Allworthy. "Indeed, Mrs Miller," answered he, a little warmly, "I do not take this at all kind. I will never bring any slander on your house; but I must insist on seeing what company I please in my own room; and if that gives you any offence, I shall, as soon as I am able, look for another lodging."--"I am sorry we must part then, sir," said she; "but I am convinced Mr Allworthy himself would never come within my doors, if he had the least suspicion of my keeping an ill house."--"Very well, madam," said Jones.--"I hope, sir," said she, "you are not angry; for I would not for the world offend any of Mr Allworthy's family. I have not slept a wink all night about this matter."--"I am sorry I have disturbed your rest, madam," said Jones, "but I beg you will send Partridge up to me immediately;" which she promised to do, and then with a very low courtesy retired.

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