Henry Fielding: The History of Tom Jones, a foundling

9. Chapter ix. Containing several dialogues...

Containing several dialogues between Jones and Partridge, concerning love, cold, hunger, and other matters; with the lucky and narrow escape of Partridge, as he was on the very brink of making a fatal discovery to his friend.

The shadows began now to descend larger from the high mountains; the feathered creation had betaken themselves to their rest. Now the highest order of mortals were sitting down to their dinners, and the lowest order to their suppers. In a word, the clock struck five just as Mr Jones took his leave of Gloucester; an hour at which (as it was now mid-winter) the dirty fingers of Night would have drawn her sable curtain over the universe, had not the moon forbid her, who now, with a face as broad and as red as those of some jolly mortals, who, like her, turn night into day, began to rise from her bed, where she had slumbered away the day, in order to sit up all night. Jones had not travelled far before he paid his compliments to that beautiful planet, and, turning to his companion, asked him if he had ever beheld so delicious an evening? Partridge making no ready answer to his question, he proceeded to comment on the beauty of the moon, and repeated some passages from Milton, who hath certainly excelled all other poets in his description of the heavenly luminaries. He then told Partridge the story from the Spectator, of two lovers who had agreed to entertain themselves when they were at a great distance from each other, by repairing, at a certain fixed hour, to look at the moon; thus pleasing themselves with the thought that they were both employed in contemplating the same object at the same time. "Those lovers," added he, "must have had souls truly capable of feeling all the tenderness of the sublimest of all human passions."--"Very probably," cries Partridge: "but I envy them more, if they had bodies incapable of feeling cold; for I am almost frozen to death, and am very much afraid I shall lose a piece of my nose before we get to another house of entertainment. Nay, truly, we may well expect some judgment should happen to us for our folly in running away so by night from one of the most excellent inns I ever set my foot into. I am sure I never saw more good things in my life, and the greatest lord in the land cannot live better in his own house than he may there. And to forsake such a house, and go a rambling about the country, the Lord knows whither, per devia rura viarum, I say nothing for my part; but some people might not have charity enough to conclude we were in our sober senses."--"Fie upon it, Mr Partridge!" says Jones, "have a better heart; consider you are going to face an enemy; and are you afraid of facing a little cold? I wish, indeed, we had a guide to advise which of these roads we should take."--"May I be so bold," says Partridge, "to offer my advice? Interdum stultus opportuna loquitur"--"Why, which of them," cries Jones, "would you recommend?"--"Truly neither of them," answered Partridge. "The only road we can be certain of finding, is the road we came. A good hearty pace will bring us back to Gloucester in an hour; but if we go forward, the Lord Harry knows when we shall arrive at any place; for I see at least fifty miles before me, and no house in all the way."--"You see, indeed, a very fair prospect," says Jones, "which receives great additional beauty from the extreme lustre of the moon. However, I will keep the left-hand track, as that seems to lead directly to those hills, which we were informed lie not far from Worcester. And here, if you are inclined to quit me, you may, and return back again; but for my part, I am resolved to go forward."

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