Tom Jones Chapter xii.

In which the thirteenth book is concluded.

The elegant Lord Shaftesbury somewhere objects to telling too much truth: by which it may be fairly inferred, that, in some cases, to lie is not only excusable but commendable.

And surely there are no persons who may so properly challenge a right to this commendable deviation from truth, as young women in the affair of love; for which they may plead precept, education, and above all, the sanction, nay, I may say the necessity of custom, by which they are restrained, not from submitting to the honest impulses of nature (for that would be a foolish prohibition), but from owning them.

We are not, therefore, ashamed to say, that our heroine now pursued the dictates of the above-mentioned right honourable philosopher. As she was perfectly satisfied then, that Lady Bellaston was ignorant of the person of Jones, so she determined to keep her in that ignorance, though at the expense of a little fibbing.

Jones had not been long gone, before Lady Bellaston cryed, “Upon my word, a good pretty young fellow; I wonder who he is; for I don’t remember ever to have seen his face before.”

“Nor I neither, madam,” cries Sophia. “I must say he behaved very handsomely in relation to my note.”

“Yes; and he is a very handsome fellow,” said the lady: “don’t you think so?”

“I did not take much notice of him,” answered Sophia, “but I thought he seemed rather awkward, and ungenteel than otherwise.”

“You are extremely right,” cries Lady Bellaston: “you may see, by his manner, that he hath not kept good company. Nay, notwithstanding his returning your note, and refusing the reward, I almost question whether he is a gentleman.——I have always observed there is a something in persons well born, which others can never acquire.——I think I will give orders not to be at home to him.”

“Nay, sure, madam,” answered Sophia, “one can’t suspect after what he hath done;—besides, if your ladyship observed him, there was an elegance in his discourse, a delicacy, a prettiness of expression that, that——”

“I confess,” said Lady Bellaston, “the fellow hath words——And indeed, Sophia, you must forgive me, indeed you must.”

“I forgive your ladyship!” said Sophia.

“Yes, indeed you must,” answered she, laughing; “for I had a horrible suspicion when I first came into the room——I vow you must forgive it; but I suspected it was Mr Jones himself.”

“Did your ladyship, indeed?” cries Sophia, blushing, and affecting a laugh.

“Yes, I vow I did,” answered she. “I can’t imagine what put it into my head: for, give the fellow his due, he was genteely drest; which, I think, dear Sophy, is not commonly the case with your friend.”

“This raillery,” cries Sophia, “is a little cruel, Lady Bellaston, after my promise to your ladyship.”

“Not at all, child,” said the lady;——”It would have been cruel before; but after you have promised me never to marry without your father’s consent, in which you know is implied your giving up Jones, sure you can bear a little raillery on a passion which was pardonable enough in a young girl in the country, and of which you tell me you have so entirely got the better. What must I think, my dear Sophy, if you cannot bear a little ridicule even on his dress? I shall begin to fear you are very far gone indeed; and almost question whether you have dealt ingenuously with me.”

“Indeed, madam,” cries Sophia, “your ladyship mistakes me, if you imagine I had any concern on his account.”

“On his account!” answered the lady: “You must have mistaken me; I went no farther than his dress;——for I would not injure your taste by any other comparison—I don’t imagine, my dear Sophy, if your Mr Jones had been such a fellow as this—”

“I thought,” says Sophia, “your ladyship had allowed him to be handsome”——

“Whom, pray?” cried the lady hastily.

“Mr Jones,” answered Sophia;—and immediately recollecting herself, “Mr Jones!—no, no; I ask your pardon;—I mean the gentleman who was just now here.”

“O Sophy! Sophy!” cries the lady; “this Mr Jones, I am afraid, still runs in your head.”

“Then, upon my honour, madam,” said Sophia, “Mr Jones is as entirely indifferent to me, as the gentleman who just now left us.”

“Upon my honour,” said Lady Bellaston, “I believe it. Forgive me, therefore, a little innocent raillery; but I promise you I will never mention his name any more.”

And now the two ladies separated, infinitely more to the delight of Sophia than of Lady Bellaston, who would willingly have tormented her rival a little longer, had not business of more importance called her away. As for Sophia, her mind was not perfectly easy under this first practice of deceit; upon which, when she retired to her chamber, she reflected with the highest uneasiness and conscious shame. Nor could the peculiar hardship of her situation, and the necessity of the case, at all reconcile her mind to her conduct; for the frame of her mind was too delicate to bear the thought of having been guilty of a falsehood, however qualified by circumstances. Nor did this thought once suffer her to close her eyes during the whole succeeding night.