The Heroe of This Great History Appears With Very Bad Omens. A Little Tale, of SO LOW a Kind, That Some May Think It Not Worth Their Notice. A Word or Two Concerning a Squire, and More Relating to a Gamekeeper, and a Schoolmaster
The narrator has to be honest: Tom Jones is a bit of a rascal.
Tom is mischievous and likes to steal small things (toys, apples, ducks—but who doesn'twant to steal a waterfowl or two, amirite?).
What makes Tom seem even worse is that he is always being compared to Squire Allworthy's well-behaved nephew, Master Blifil.
(Boys in high-class English families traditionally get called "Master" until they reach adulthood, even by lower-class people who are much older than they are.)
All the people in the neighborhood can't understand why Squire Allworthy keeps raising naughty Tom alongside saintly Master Blifil.
Won't Tom's evil ways rub off on Master Blifil?
Tom basically has no friends among Squire Allworthy's servants except an old gamekeeper, George Seagrim (also called Black George).
(It's the job of the gamekeeper to protect birds and wildlife on someone's estate. Of course, the purpose of this protection is generally so that lords and ladies have something to hunt on their protected lands. In a way, this job seems a little self-defeating: to protect animals so that someone else can shoot them. But that's the eighteenth century for you.)
Black George is also a bit of a thief, like Tom.
In fact, a lot of Tom's thieving has been on behalf of Black George and his family, but Tom has always taken the whole blame.
All of this back-story is a set-up to show one episode of Tom's "bad" behavior.
Tom and Black George chase a couple of partridges onto a neighboring estate.
Even though they are on someone else's property, Tom and Black George shoot at these partridges, and Tom hits one.
The neighbor hears the shot and comes running.
Black George quickly hides, but Tom stands his ground.
The neighbor sees that Tom has (supposedly) stolen one of his partridges and drags the kid to Squire Allworthy.
The neighbor is sure that there was another man with Tom, and demands to know who his friend was.
Squire Allworthy tries to push Tom into snitching on Black George.
Tom refuses, so the next morning, Squire Allworthy turns Tom over to his tutor, Mr. Thwackum.
Mr. Thwackum beats Tom horribly to make him confess who his fellow shooter was.
But even though Tom is in terrible pain, he refuses to speak.
Squire Allworthy decides that Tom must be telling the truth.
He apologizes to Tom for this brutal punishment, and gives him a little horse to make him feel better.
Mr. Thwackum wants to keep hitting Tom to make him confess.
But Squire Allworthy refuses: either Tom is telling the truth, or he is holding out because he believes that it's the honorable thing to do.
Mr. Thwackum gets into an argument with the other guest at Squire Allworthy's home about the nature of honor.