Henry Fielding: The History of Tom Jones, a foundling

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

As soon as Partridge arrived, Jones fell upon him in the most outrageous manner. "How often," said he, "am I to suffer for your folly, or rather for my own in keeping you? is that tongue of yours resolved upon my destruction?" "What have I done, sir?" answered affrighted Partridge. "Who was it gave you authority to mention the story of the robbery, or that the man you saw here was the person?" "I, sir?" cries Partridge. "Now don't be guilty of a falsehood in denying it," said Jones. "If I did mention such a matter," answers Partridge, "I am sure I thought no harm; for I should not have opened my lips, if it had not been to his own friends and relations, who, I imagined, would have let it go no farther." "But I have a much heavier charge against you," cries Jones, "than this. How durst you, after all the precautions I gave you, mention the name of Mr Allworthy in this house?" Partridge denied that he ever had, with many oaths. "How else," said Jones, "should Mrs Miller be acquainted that there was any connexion between him and me? And it is but this moment she told me she respected me on his account." "O Lord, sir," said Partridge, "I desire only to be heard out; and to be sure, never was anything so unfortunate: hear me but out, and you will own how wrongfully you have accused me. When Mrs Honour came downstairs last night she met me in the entry, and asked me when my master had heard from Mr Allworthy; and to be sure Mrs Miller heard the very words; and the moment Madam Honour was gone, she called me into the parlour to her. `Mr Partridge,' says she, `what Mr Allworthy is it that the gentlewoman mentioned? is it the great Mr Allworthy of Somersetshire?' `Upon my word, madam,' says I, `I know nothing of the matter.' `Sure,' says she, `your master is not the Mr Jones I have heard Mr Allworthy talk of?' `Upon my word, madam,' says I, `I know nothing of the matter.' `Then,' says she, turning to her daughter Nancy, says she, `as sure as tenpence this is the very young gentleman, and he agrees exactly with the squire's description.' The Lord above knows who it was told her: for I am the arrantest villain that ever walked upon two legs if ever it came out of my mouth. I promise you, sir, I can keep a secret when I am desired. Nay, sir, so far was I from telling her anything about Mr Allworthy, that I told her the very direct contrary; for, though I did not contradict it at that moment, yet, as second thoughts, they say, are best, so when I came to consider that somebody must have informed her, thinks I to myself, I will put an end to the story; and so I went back again into the parlour some time afterwards, and says I, upon my word, says I, whoever, says I, told you that this gentleman was Mr Jones; that is, says I, that this Mr Jones was that Mr Jones, told you a confounded lie: and I beg, says I, you will never mention any such matter, says I; for my master, says I, will think I must have told you so; and I defy anybody in the house ever to say I mentioned any such word. To be certain, sir, it is a wonderful thing, and I have been thinking with myself ever since, how it was she came to know it; not but I saw an old woman here t'other day a begging at the door, who looked as like her we saw in Warwickshire, that caused all that mischief to us. To be sure it is never good to pass by an old woman without giving her something, especially if she looks at you; for all the world shall never persuade me but that they have a great power to do mischief, and to be sure I shall never see an old woman again, but I shall think to myself, Infandum, regina, jubes renovare dolorem."

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