The narrator has made quotations without citing books or their authors throughout this history. He believes that the "Antients" to the "Moderns" are as the rich to the poor.
Squire Western, tracking Sophia on the Worcester Road, bursts into a volley of oaths and curses the fact that hunting for his daughter is preventing him from hunting on this fine morning. At this moment, to Western and Parson Supple's great surprise, a pack of hounds races by. Western leaps into action and joins the hunt. However, since nature always conquers reason in every character, we should not "arraign the Squire of any Want of Love for his Daughter." The master of the hunt, impressed with Western's skills, invites him to dinner. Western wishes to hunt the following day, but his host and Supple discourage him from it.
Finally, the narrator returns to the story of Tom Jones and Partridge. After departing from the Inn at Upton, Partridge wants to go home. But Jones laments that he has no home and wishes only to join the army. Partridge argues that perhaps the Man of the Hill was a spirit who was sent to warn them against entering the military. He peppers his speech with non-sequitur Latin quotations, which Tom brings to his attention. Although Partridge preaches that no Christian should kill another man, he is terrified of losing an arm or leg, or even his life, in battle.
At a crossway, Partridge shoos away a beggar, but Tom hands the man a shilling, chastising Partridge for his hypocrisy. The beggar gives Tom something that he has picked up—to Tom's elation, it is Sophia's pocket-book, which was a present from Mrs. Western. Unfortunately, the beggar cannot read, or he might have realized that inside the pocket-book lies one hundred pounds that Western entrusted to his daughter. Tom gives the beggar a guinea for his honesty, and the man leads them to the place where he found the pocket-book. He then demands more money, but Tom insists that the money must be given to its rightful owner. He writes down the man's name and address so that he can compensate him in the future.
Tom and Partridge hear the noise of a drum, and Partridge fears that the rebels are advancing. Partridge is eager to see a puppet show they pass by, "The Provoked Husband." The show fetches high acclaim from the spectators and from the puppet-master himself, who praises his show for its ability to "improve the Morals of young People." A clerk agrees that everything base should be excluded from theaters. Tom offends the puppet-master by saying that he would rather have watched the merry pranks of Punch and Joan.
The landlady is in a frenzy after finding her maid, Grace, backstage with the puppeteer who played Merry Andrew. She reminisces about the old days when puppet shows staged Bible stories, silencing the puppeteer's boasts. Tom is prevailed upon by Partridge, the puppet-master, and the landlady to sleep at the inn before continuing his journey—he has hardly slept since the "Accident of the broken Head" at Bristol. Partridge prefers eating to sleeping or drinking. The uproar caused by Grace has passed and calm has been restored among hosts and guests.
Although Partridge's pride prevents him answering to the title of "servant," his constant bragging about Tom's superior status leads people to believe that Tom is his master. Indeed, Partridge greatly embellishes Tom's fortune, convinced that Tom is Allworthy's heir. Now Partridge tells the company at the inn that he thinks Tom has gone mad. Some say that Tom should not be allowed to roam the countryside in such a state, as he might cause trouble. Partridge perks up at this idea—he is still keen to induce Tom to return to Allworthy. The landlady cautions that no one should treat Tom with violence, admiring Tom's pretty eyes and modesty in the process. The rest of the company debates how they can prove Tom's insanity to a jury. The landlord enters the kitchen and announces that the rebels are almost in London. The conversation now turns to the rebellion and whether a right descends to a son if a father dies. The landlord fears that the rebel leader Bonnie Prince Charlie will try to convert everyone into Catholics.
Jones rescues the Merry Andrew puppeteer from the puppet-master, who is beating him for his misconduct with Grace. Merry Andrew accuses the puppet-master of wanting to violate "one of the prettiest Ladies that was ever seen in the World." Tom perks up at these words and has a private conference with Merry Andrew, who tells him that he saw Sophia ride through the town the day before. Tom and Partridge set out along the route Merry Andrew points out, but a violent rainstorm rises and they have to take shelter in an inn. Here they find the boy who acted as Sophia's guide. Tom does not mention Sophia's name in public—it is Partridge who has been bandying about stories of her.
Tom manages to get the boy to take them to London by horse. Jones insists on sitting in the side-saddle—usually reserved for ladies—since this is where his beloved Sophia sat. Partridge is delighted that Tom's thoughts are no longer tending towards the rebellion. At three in the morning, Tom is trying to convince the boy to take them to Coventry, when they are interrupted by Dowling, the lawyer from Salisbury with whom Tom dined in Gloucester. Dowling urges Tom to halt for the night, but he will not, even if it means traveling on foot. Tom accepts Dowling's invitation to share a bottle of wine.
Dowling drinks to Allworthy and Blifil. Tom warns him not to confound the names of the best and worst of men, shocking Dowling. Dowling in fact has never met Allworthy, but has only heard reports of his goodness. His opinion of Blifil is based on the boy's "pretty behavior on the news of his mother's death." Tom explains that recently he has realized that Blifil has the "basest and Blackest Designs." He does not elaborate on the details of these designs, however. The narrator reminds the reader that even Tom Jones does not realize how dark these designs in fact are. Tom admits that he is not a relation of Allworthy. Dowling wishes to hear Tom's history. Dowling has much empathy for Tom in spite of his being a lawyer. Tom avows that he has no interest in Allworthy's fortune—he prefers the enjoyments of benevolent thoughts and acts to material goods.
Tom, Partridge, and the guide boy lose their way. Partridge, who has a wild imagination, is terrified. He thinks a witch has cast a spell on them. When the guide boy and his horse fall over, Partridge's believes his fears are confirmed. Jones helps the guide boy recover while Partridge gripes.
Tom and Partridge spot a light and, as they approach, notice music and lanterns. Partridge's superstition leads him to think it must be a witches' den. It is in fact an Egyptian gypsy wedding in a barn. The King of the Gypsies welcomes Tom, who has such an "open Countenance and courteous Behaviour" that he makes an astounding first impression on everyone that he meets. Partridge has now relaxed and has been decoyed by a young female gypsy pretending to tell his fortune. The gypsy's husband catches them, and a trial ensues. The husband demands two guineas from Partridge, but the king chastises him for putting a price on the virtue of his wife. The king sentences the man to wear horns and his wife to be called a "whore." The narrator expresses his support for the institution of monarchy.
The narrator chides himself for his didactic digression in the previous chapter. Tom Jones and Partridge travel from Coventry to St. Albans, which Sophia left two hours earlier. Partridge wants to borrow some of Sophia's one hundred pounds—he says that Fortune must have sent it for their use. Jones calls this dishonest. Partridge, garbling some Greek into his speech, says that Tom will understand life better when he grows older. They have offended each other, but Partridge apologizes and Tom forgives him.
A stranger asks to join Jones and Partridge to London. They speak about the dangers of robbery. Partridge alludes to the hundred pounds in Jones's pocket. Near Highgate, the stranger suddenly whips out a pistol and demands the money from Jones. Jones grabs the pistol and restrains the man, who calls for mercy—he says that the gun is not loaded and that this is his first robbery. Partridge, terrified, is still yelling. The man tells Jones that he has five children and a pregnant wife and does not have money to feed them. Jones gives the man a couple of guineas. Partridge says that Jones should have punished the man—stealing deserves death by hanging. Jones reminds him that not long ago Partridge stole some horses.
Book XII is one of the most eventful books of the novel, packed to the brim with the adventures of Tom and Partridge: they discover Sophia's pocket- book, they attend a puppet-show, Tom drinks with Dowling, they attend the Gypsy wedding, and they are almost robbed on the highway. Before the narrator takes us into the courtly realm of London for good, he escalates Tom's ribald road adventures. While the book may seem to jump from one scenario to the next, many of the events are important precursors to Tom's experience in London.
In the final chapter of the book, Fielding distinguishes Tom's sense of honor from Partridge's hypocrisy—the worst characters in the book, including Thwackum, Square, and Blifil, act in contradiction to their words. Partridge's hypocrisy may be excused, however, on account of his pathetic character—he believes the Gypsies to be witches, and he cannot come to Tom's assistance on the highway because he cannot stop yelling. His is thus a less invidious hypocrisy than Blifil's, whose evil is discovered only in the final book of the novel.
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