Henry Fielding: The History of Tom Jones, a foundling

6. Chapter vi. From which it may be inferred...

From which it may be inferred that the best things are liable to be misunderstood and misinterpreted.

A violent uproar now arose in the entry, where my landlady was well cuffing her maid both with her fist and tongue. She had indeed missed the wench from her employment, and, after a little search, had found her on the puppet-show stage in company with the Merry Andrew, and in a situation not very proper to be described.

Though Grace (for that was her name) had forfeited all title to modesty; yet had she not impudence enough to deny a fact in which she was actually surprized; she, therefore, took another turn, and attempted to mitigate the offence. "Why do you beat me in this manner, mistress?" cries the wench. "If you don't like my doings, you may turn me away. If I am a w--e" (for the other had liberally bestowed that appellation on her), "my betters are so as well as I. What was the fine lady in the puppet-show just now? I suppose she did not lie all night out from her husband for nothing."

The landlady now burst into the kitchen, and fell foul on both her husband and the poor puppet-mover. "Here, husband," says she, "you see the consequence of harbouring these people in your house. If one doth draw a little drink the more for them, one is hardly made amends for the litter they make; and then to have one's house made a bawdy-house of by such lousy vermin. In short, I desire you would be gone to-morrow morning; for I will tolerate no more such doings. It is only the way to teach our servants idleness and nonsense; for to be sure nothing better can be learned by such idle shows as these. I remember when puppet-shows were made of good scripture stories, as Jephthah's Rash Vow, and such good things, and when wicked people were carried away by the devil. There was some sense in those matters; but as the parson told us last Sunday, nobody believes in the devil now-a-days; and here you bring about a parcel of puppets drest up like lords and ladies, only to turn the heads of poor country wenches; and when their heads are once turned topsy-turvy, no wonder everything else is so."

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