As the narrator cannot identify what his reader will be like, he asks them not to condemn his work too hastily as a “little reptile of a critic” might (467). He states that characters should not be condemned for possessing some bad qualities, as this is reality, and people tend to have both good and bad qualities.
A gentleman arrives at the inn and asks Susan (the maidservant) if a lady has recently arrived. Susan thinks immediately of Mrs. Waters and takes the gentleman to her chamber. He bursts the door open and finds the lady in bed with Tom Jones. Mrs. Waters screams at the intrusion of the two men (it would be unseemly to admit that Tom was there by invitation). A man in the next room awakes and intervenes in the chaos. It is then discovered that the gentleman is Mr. Fitzpatrick, and of course Mrs. Waters is not his wife. The landlady is shocked by the scandalous scene of three men in Mrs. Waters’s chamber.
Susan explains how the situation eventuated. The landlady tells her to keep the information about Tom and Mrs. Waters a secret; she should in fact doubt her own eyes. Another coach arrives, bearing a lady and her servant. The lady will not allow the other patrons to be disturbed for the sake of her rest, and so is willing to pass her time downstairs. She is described as a lovely creature whose manners and compassion match her beauty.
The lady’s maidservant is a direct contrast to the lady. She is fastidious to the point of rudeness, insisting that the landlady wash her hands and that any food she is served must not be touched by other servants. She is revealed as Abigail Honour, and she recognizes Tom Jones’s name when Partridge, who is drinking downstairs, mentions he is staying at the inn.
Mrs. Honour tells Sophia (who is obviously the lady) that Tom is at the inn. The landlady upbraids Honour for her haughty behavior, and Partridge joins in the criticism. Partridge tells Honour that Tom is in bed with a wench. When Sophia doubts it, Susan offers to confirm, and finds that Tom is not in his own bedchamber. When Susan realizes who Sophia is, she tells her that Tom was going to become a soldier to forget her. Sophia is upset and angry, more that Tom mentioned her name to strangers than with his current infidelity. She does not realize that it is Partridge, and not Tom, who is loose with information. Believing Tom does not respect her, she decides to move on. As retribution for the perceived slights, she removes her muff, writes her name on a piece of paper that she then pins to it, and then asks Susan to place it on Tom Jones’s empty bed.
Partridge tries to convince Tom to return home. Tom is shocked when he sees the muff on his bed, so much so that the narrator comments that his reaction defies description. The man who came to Mrs. Waters’s aid - Mr. MacLachlan - learns that the woman who had arrived earlier was from Chester, and hence might have been Mr. Fitzpatrick's wife. This means she might have been at the inn, and her pursuers were simply rash in assuming it was her that Tom slept with. At the end of the chapter, a gentleman arrives at the inn.
The newly arrived gentleman is Squire Western, who is looking for Sophia. He is accompanied by Parson Supple. Mr. Fitzpatrick’s wife is revealed to be Sophia’s cousin, Harriet, who ran away from Mrs. Western five years earlier. Squire Western has never met his niece, so they do not recognize each other.
In the kitchen, Squire Western is asking after Sophia when Tom Jones enters carrying her muff. There is a scuffle between them, and Western uses a derogatory hunting metaphor to identify that Sophia must be close by. Parson Supple agrees that it is indeed Sophia’s muff. The party again bursts in on Mrs. Waters, who is revealed to be neither the wife nor the daughter of the invaders.
Mr. Fitzpatrick raises the point that Tom could be charged with a felony for stealing Sophia’s muff. Susan explains that Sophia gave it to her to leave on Tom’s bed. Tom and Partridge set off to find Sophia, to whom he has again devoted himself. Mrs. Waters consoles Mr. Fitzpatrick, who has not yet located his wife.
The narrator recounts how Squire Western discovered Sophia's disappearance and then angrily out after her. He further comments how Squire Western and Mrs. Western each have inabilities to see clearly. Squire Western saw only what was in the moment, and Mrs. Western only saw the wider picture. Mrs. Western gives her brother wise advice on how to treat women “by gentle means only” (496). Blifil was also displeased when Sophia is revealed to have fled, but the narrator remarks that he is less affected than a true passionate lover would be.
The story continues to recount how Sophia ended up at the inn.
Sophia had escaped the night before her father discovered her disappearance. She traveled out into the country, and eventually took up with a guide, who is grateful for her kind treatment of him, unlike his last charge – who is revealed to be Tom Jones. She asked the guide to take her to where he deposited Tom, which was the first public house. The landlady there told her that Tom had mentioned Sophia during his visit. Sophia and the guide then followed Tom and Partridge’s route to Gloucester, easy to do because of Partridge's loose tongue.
The narrator makes further comment on characterization in this Book. He says that although certain groups of people may share characteristics, they should still be distinct. His point that even the best of realistic good characters have less favorable qualities could be a criticism of Richardson’s innocent Pamela. It also echoes his professed intention, to explore the nuances of every human, rather than to deal with them in types.
Chapter 2 begins in an excessively elevated style that is amusingly deflated by the narrator –“in plain English, it was now midnight” (469). Fielding’s use of bathos is a technique employed in several chapters. It serves to illustrate the breadth of Fielding’s skill and to remind us that his purpose is to explore human nature, not to produce the indulgent prose he associates with romantic writing. In contrast, when Tom finds Sophia’s muff on his bed, the narrator prudently avoids elaborate description of the intensity of emotion, instead indicating only that his actions, “were such as beggars all description” (488).
There also continues to be farce and slapstick comedy in the narrative. The scene with Mrs. Waters and the three men in her chamber is a good example. Not only is it broadly funny, but it satirizes a comedy of manners. Mrs. Waters denies that Tom is there by invitation (because that would be immoral), and the landlady instructs the maid to question her own perceptions in light of Tom's class superiority: “I would not have believed my own eyes against such good gentle-folks” (475). By highlighting such class-based concerns, Fielding notes how ridiculous and out of touch protestations of morality often are, considering how base humans tend to be.
Fielding utilizes his fondness for contrasts in chapter 4, when Honour’s haughty behavior and arrogance stands at odds with Sophia’s restrained, genteel and polite demeanor. Further, Sophia's primary complaint against Tom is that he used her name, and not that he was sleeping with Mrs. Waters. This contrast highlights the remarkable structure of social codes at the time, indicating what even 'high-bred' men were allowed to do without losing reputation.
Contrast is further used in the characters of Squire and Mrs. Western. Their individual perception of events is radically different, yet each cares for Sophia deeply. That is, of course, according to their own moral codes. Squire Western still describes the pursuit of his daughter as a hunt, as he illustrates when seeing Tom Jones is at the inn: “We have got the dog fox, I warrant the bitch is not far off.”(491). Mrs. Western is keen to assert the important qualities and strengths of womankind, but she is equally ardent for Sophia to make the most advantageous rather than the most affectionate match.
Ultimately, it makes sense that this Book, so concerned with contrast, begins with a preface noting that people are capable of both nice and low qualities.