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The narrator prides himself on being the founder of "prosai-comi-epic Writing." He explains that the chapters that preface every book are meant philosophical and historical treatises. He then turns his focus on "critics," to whom he believes have received such authority that they think they can create rules for authors. The rules that critics have attempted to instigate, however, only "curb and restrain Genius." Returning to his prefacing remarks, the narrator explains that the introductory chapters are also intended to provide contrast: in their seriousness, they should excite the reader to reach the comic parts.
While Tom is in confinement because of his broken arm, Mr. Allworthy visits him every day and tries to make him deliberate on his misconduct. Thwackum often visits Tom to deliver dictatorial speeches out of his "duty" to urge reprobates, such as Tom, to repent. Thwacker says that Tom's broken arm is God's punishment for his sins. Square lectures Tom in a similar manner, but argues instead that a broken arm is nothing in the grand universal scheme. Blifil rarely visits, saying that he is scared to sully his character by spending time with Tom. Squire Western leaves Tom's room only to drink or hunt, while Sophia struggles to make herself stay at bay.
One day, while Tom and Squire Western listen to Sophia playing the harpsichord, Tom tells Western that, since his broken arm saved Sophia, he thinks of it as "the happiest Accident" of his life. Western wants to give Tom one of his horses as a reward. Sophia begins to play very badly, in such a way that Tom notices that something is bothering Sophia, and begins to suspect that she might be attracted to him.
Tom's love for Sophia is "bittersweet," since he is not completely sure that he has won her affection. Moreover, knowing that fortune and status are of fundamental importance to parents, Tom anticipates that Squire Western prohibit a marriage between him and Sophia. He does not want to abuse Western's hospitality to him, nor does he desire to offend Allworthy. Tom also thinks of Molly, to whom he has made promises of "eternal Constancy." He cannot bear to reflect on the image of Molly dying, which she has sworn to do if Tom deserts her. Molly's poverty has not once represented an obstacle to Tom. After a sleepless night, Tom resolves to remain faithful to Molly.
Mrs. Honour visits Tom on his sick-bed. She was deserted after being fooled by a nobleman's footman, and has never trusted another man with her heart, but she still loves men. Mrs. Honour tells Tom that Sophia has sent her to check on Molly, and Tom begs her for any information on Sophia. After a good deal of wheedling, Honour reveals that Sophia will not buy a new muff, but holds on to the one that Tom had kissed earlier. Squire Western enters to summon Tom to the harpsichord, where Sophia sits, wearing her muff and looking lovelier than ever. While Sophia is performing one of her father's favorite songs, the muff falls onto her fingers and prevents her from playing properly. Enraged, Western throws the muff into the fire, but Sophia immediately retrieves it from the flames.
Tom cannot get Molly out of his mind, and his compassion for her makes him overlook the fact that Sophia eclipses Molly in both appearance and character. Tom hopes that maybe he can apologize to Molly by offering her money, since her desperation might be greater than her love for him. One day, with his broken arm in a sling, Tom goes to visit Molly. Tom finds the upstairs door locked, and Molly eventually appears and tells Tom she has been sleeping. Tom tells Molly that Allworthy would be furious if he knew they were together, and says he wants Molly to find a man with whom she can lead a reputable life. She bursts into tears and accuses him of ruining and deserting her.
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