فصل 16

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فصل 16

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CHAPTER SIXTEEN

Rich Food

When Tom and his companion Partridge left Upton, they marched with heavy hearts, though for different reasons. They came to a crossroads, and Tom asked Partridge which road they should take. ‘If you take my advice,’ said Partridge, ‘you will turn around and return home.’

‘I have no home to return to,’ cried Tom. ‘Even if my godfather would take me back, I could not bear to live there without Sophia. Now, since I cannot follow her, let us follow the army. I believe they went this way.’ And by chance Tom chose the road which Sophia had taken.

They marched on for several miles, and arrived at another crossroads. Here a poor man in rags asked them for money. Partridge was very rude to him, but Tom gave him a coin.

‘Master,’ cried the man, after thanking him. ‘I have something interesting here, which I found about two miles away. As you are kind, I know you will not think I am a thief. Would you like to buy it?’

He then passed a little gold notebook to Tom. He opened it and (guess, reader, what he felt) saw on the first page the words Sophia Western, written in her own fair hand. He kissed and kissed the page.

While he was kissing the book, as if he had a delicious little cake in his mouth, a piece of paper fell from its pages to the ground. Partridge picked it up and gave it to Tom, who shouted that it was a banknote for a hundred pounds.

Partridge was delighted at this news, and so was the honest man (though it is fair to say that perhaps he was honest because he could not read). Tom immediately told him that he knew the owner of the notebook, and would follow her and return it. He paid him a pound for the notebook, and asked him to lead them to the place where he found it.

They then walked together to the place where Sophia had unhappily dropped the notebook, and where the man had happily found it. Tom opened the notebook a hundred times, kissed it as often, and talked to himself as he walked.

When they arrived at the place, the poor man, who had been thinking about the banknote, now said to Tom: ‘Please give me half the money I found.’

Tom refused. ‘I will give it to the right owner,’ he said. ‘But let me write your name in the notebook and one day you may have a reward.’

Our travellers then left the man and moved on so fast that they had no breath for conversation. Tom thought about Sophia. Partridge thought about the banknote.

As they came into the next town they met three horses, led by a boy whom Partridge recognized as the guide who came to Upton with Sophia. The boy told Tom that Sophia did not need the horses any more, as she had continued her journey in a carriage. Tom quickly offered to pay him to take them to London instead. The boy agreed, and now Tom and Partridge continued their journey on horseback.

Reader, my pen will not describe the roads, the rivers and the other beauties which passed by as our travellers rode towards London. But one cold, wet night there was a conversation which I will repeat.

‘Sir,’ said Partridge. ‘We have had no dinner today, yet you look fresh and strong. Do you live on love?’

‘This dear notebook is my food,’ said Tom. ‘And very rich it is too.’

‘Rich, yes,’ cried Partridge, ‘for it has enough in it to buy us a hundred dinners.’

‘Partridge!’ said Tom. ‘What are you suggesting?’

‘Oh, nothing dishonest,’ answered Partridge. ‘Where is the dishonesty in spending a little now, if you repay it later? As your own money is nearly finished, where can be the harm, if you need it? A great lady does not need it, especially if she is now with a lord.’

‘Partridge,’ said Tom firmly ‘finding and spending is the same as stealing, and stealing is a hanging matter. This note is the property of my own dear angel, and I will put it in no other hands but hers, even if I am starving.’

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