"Am I so given to upbraiding then?" says she, in a gentle voice; "have I ever given you occasion to think I would sink you to perdition?"
"Far be it from me, my love, to think so," answered he. "And yet you may forgive the utmost fears of an offending, penitent sinner. I know, indeed, the extent of your goodness, and yet I know my guilt so great—"
"Alas! Mr. Booth," said she, "what guilt is this which you mention, and which you writ to me of last night?—Sure, by your mentioning to me so much, you intend to tell me more—nay, indeed, to tell me all; and not leave my mind open to suspicions perhaps ten times worse than the truth."
"Will you give me a patient hearing?" said he.
"I will indeed," answered she, "nay, I am prepared to hear the worst you can unfold; nay, perhaps, the worst is short of my apprehensions."
Booth then, after a little further apology, began and related to her the whole that had passed between him and Miss Matthews, from their first meeting in the prison to their separation the preceding evening. All which, as the reader knows it already, it would be tedious and unpardonable to transcribe from his mouth. He told her likewise all that he had done and suffered to conceal his transgression from her knowledge. This he assured her was the business of his visit last night, the consequence of which was, he declared in the most solemn manner, no other than an absolute quarrel with Miss Matthews, of whom he had taken a final leave.
When he had ended his narration, Amelia, after a short silence, answered, "Indeed, I firmly believe every word you have said, but I cannot now forgive you the fault you have confessed; and my reason is —because I have forgiven it long ago. Here, my dear," said she, "is an instance that I am likewise capable of keeping a secret."—She then delivered her husband a letter which she had some time ago received from Miss Matthews, and which was the same which that lady had mentioned, and supposed, as Booth had never heard of it, that it had miscarried; for she sent it by the penny post. In this letter, which was signed by a feigned name, she had acquainted Amelia with the infidelity of her husband, and had besides very greatly abused him; taxing him with many falsehoods, and, among the rest, with having spoken very slightingly and disrespectfully of his wife.
Amelia never shined forth to Booth in so amiable and great a light; nor did his own unworthiness ever appear to him so mean and contemptible as at this instant. However, when he had read the letter, he uttered many violent protestations to her, that all which related to herself was absolutely false.
"I am convinced it is," said she. "I would not have a suspicion of the contrary for the world. I assure you I had, till last night revived it in my memory, almost forgot the letter; for, as I well knew from whom it came, by her mentioning obligations which she had conferred on you, and which you had more than once spoken to me of, I made large allowances for the situation you was then in; and I was the more satisfied, as the letter itself, as well as many other circumstances, convinced me the affair was at an end."
Booth now uttered the most extravagant expressions of admiration and fondness that his heart could dictate, and accompanied them with the warmest embraces. All which warmth and tenderness she returned; and tears of love and joy gushed from both their eyes. So ravished indeed were their hearts, that for some time they both forgot the dreadful situation of their affairs.
This, however, was but a short reverie. It soon recurred to Amelia, that, though she had the liberty of leaving that house when she pleased, she could not take her beloved husband with her. This thought stung her tender bosom to the quick, and she could not so far command herself as to refrain from many sorrowful exclamations against the hardship of their destiny; but when she saw the effect they had upon Booth she stifled her rising grief, forced a little chearfulness into her countenance, and, exerting all the spirits she could raise within herself, expressed her hopes of seeing a speedy end to their sufferings. She then asked her husband what she should do for him, and to whom she should apply for his deliverance?
"You know, my dear," cries Booth, "that the doctor is to be in town some time to-day. My hopes of immediate redemption are only in him; and, if that can be obtained, I make no doubt but of the success of that affair which is in the hands of a gentleman who hath faithfully promised, and in whose power I am so well assured it is to serve me."
Thus did this poor man support his hopes by a dependence on that ticket which he had so dearly purchased of one who pretended to manage the wheels in the great state lottery of preferment. A lottery, indeed, which hath this to recommend it—that many poor wretches feed their imaginations with the prospect of a prize during their whole lives, and never discover they have drawn a blank.
Amelia, who was of a pretty sanguine temper, and was entirely ignorant of these matters, was full as easy to be deceived into hopes as her husband; but in reality at present she turned her eyes to no distant prospect, the desire of regaining her husband's liberty having engrossed her whole mind.
While they were discoursing on these matters they heard a violent noise in the house, and immediately after several persons passed by their door up-stairs to the apartment over their head. This greatly terrified the gentle spirit of Amelia, and she cried—"Good Heavens, my dear, must I leave you in this horrid place? I am terrified with a thousand fears concerning you."
Booth endeavoured to comfort her, saying that he was in no manner of danger, and that he doubted not but that the doctor would soon be with him—"And stay, my dear," cries he; "now I recollect, suppose you should apply to my old friend James; for I believe you are pretty well satisfied that your apprehensions of him were groundless. I have no reason to think but that he would be as ready to serve me as formerly."
Amelia turned pale as ashes at the name of James, and, instead of making a direct answer to her husband, she laid hold of him, and cried, "My dear, I have one favour to beg of you, and I insist on your granting it me."
Booth readily swore he would deny her nothing.
"It is only this, my dear," said she, "that, if that detested colonel comes, you will not see him. Let the people of the house tell him you are not here."
"He knows nothing of my being here," answered Booth; "but why should I refuse to see him if he should be kind enough to come hither to me? Indeed, my Amelia, you have taken a dislike to that man without sufficient reason."
"I speak not upon that account," cries Amelia; "but I have had dreams last night about you two. Perhaps you will laugh at my folly, but pray indulge it. Nay, I insist on your promise of not denying me."
"Dreams! my dear creature," answered he. "What dream can you have had of us?"
"One too horrible to be mentioned," replied she.—"I cannot think of it without horrour; and, unless you will promise me not to see the colonel till I return, I positively will never leave you."
"Indeed, my Amelia," said Booth, "I never knew you unreasonable before. How can a woman of your sense talk of dreams?"
"Suffer me to be once at least unreasonable," said Amelia, "as you are so good-natured to say I am not often so. Consider what I have lately suffered, and how weak my spirits must be at this time."
As Booth was going to speak, the bailiff, without any ceremony, entered the room, and cried, "No offence, I hope, madam; my wife, it seems, did not know you. She thought the captain had a mind for a bit of flesh by the bye. But I have quieted all matters; for I know you very well: I have seen that handsome face many a time when I have been waiting upon the captain formerly. No offence, I hope, madam; but if my wife was as handsome as you are I should not look for worse goods abroad."
Booth conceived some displeasure at this speech, but he did not think proper to express more than a pish; and then asked the bailiff what was the meaning of the noise they heard just now?
"I know of no noise," answered the bailiff. "Some of my men have been carrying a piece of bad luggage up-stairs; a poor rascal that resisted the law and justice; so I gave him a cut or two with a hanger. If they should prove mortal, he must thank himself for it. If a man will not behave like a gentleman to an officer, he must take the consequence; but I must say that for you, captain, you behave yourself like a gentleman, and therefore I shall always use you as such; and I hope you will find bail soon with all my heart. This is but a paultry sum to what the last was; and I do assure you there is nothing else against you in the office."
The latter part of the bailiff's speech somewhat comforted Amelia, who had been a little frightened by the former; and she soon after took leave of her husband to go in quest of the doctor, who, as Amelia had heard that morning, was expected in town that very day, which was somewhat sooner than he had intended at his departure.
Before she went, however, she left a strict charge with the bailiff, who ushered her very civilly downstairs, that if one Colonel James came there to enquire for her husband he should deny that he was there.
She then departed; and the bailiff immediately gave a very strict charge to his wife, his maid, and his followers, that if one Colonel James, or any one from him, should enquire after the captain, that they should let him know he had the captain above-stairs; for he doubted not but that the colonel was one of Booth's creditors, and he hoped for a second bail-bond by his means.
Containing matter pertinent to the history.
Amelia, in her way to the doctor's, determined just to stop at her own lodgings, which lay a little out of the road, and to pay a momentary visit to her children.
This was fortunate enough; for, had she called at the doctor's house, she would have heard nothing of him, which would have caused in her some alarm and disappointment; for the doctor was set down at Mrs. Atkinson's, where he was directed to Amelia's lodgings, to which he went before he called at his own; and here Amelia now found him playing with her two children.
The doctor had been a little surprized at not finding Amelia at home, or any one that could give an account of her. He was now more surprized to see her come in such a dress, and at the disorder which he very plainly perceived in her pale and melancholy countenance. He addressed her first (for indeed she was in no great haste to speak), and cried, "My dear child, what is the matter? where is your husband? some mischief I am afraid hath happened to him in my absence."
"O my dear doctor!" answered Amelia, "sure some good angel hath sent you hither. My poor Will is arrested again. I left him in the most miserable condition in the very house whence your goodness formerly redeemed him."
"Arrested!" cries the doctor. "Then it must be for some very inconsiderable trifle."
"I wish it was," said Amelia; "but it is for no less than fifty pound."
"Then," cries the doctor, "he hath been disingenuous with me. He told me he did not owe ten pounds in the world for which he was liable to be sued."
"I know not what to say," cries Amelia. "Indeed, I am afraid to tell you the truth."
"How, child?" said the doctor—"I hope you will never disguise it to any one, especially to me. Any prevarication, I promise you, will forfeit my friendship for ever."
"I will tell you the whole," cries Amelia, "and rely entirely on your goodness." She then related the gaming story, not forgetting to set in the fullest light, and to lay the strongest emphasis on, his promise never to play again.
The doctor fetched a deep sigh when he had heard Amelia's relation, and cried, "I am sorry, child, for the share you are to partake in your husband's sufferings; but as for him, I really think he deserves no compassion. You say he hath promised never to play again, but I must tell you he hath broke his promise to me already; for I had heard he was formerly addicted to this vice, and had given him sufficient caution against it. You will consider, child, I am already pretty largely engaged for him, every farthing of which I am sensible I must pay. You know I would go to the utmost verge of prudence to serve you; but I must not exceed my ability, which is not very great; and I have several families on my hands who are by misfortune alone brought to want. I do assure you I cannot at present answer for such a sum as this without distressing my own circumstances."
"Then Heaven have mercy upon us all!" cries Amelia, "for we have no other friend on earth: my husband is undone, and these poor little wretches must be starved."
The doctor cast his eyes on the children, and then cried, "I hope not so. I told you I must distress my circumstances, and I will distress them this once on your account, and on the account of these poor little babes. But things must not go on any longer in this way. You must take an heroic resolution. I will hire a coach for you to-morrow morning which shall carry you all down to my parsonage-house. There you shall have my protection till something can be done for your husband; of which, to be plain with you, I at present see no likelihood."
Amelia fell upon her knees in an ecstasy of thanksgiving to the doctor, who immediately raised her up, and placed her in her chair. She then recollected herself, and said, "O my worthy friend, I have still another matter to mention to you, in which I must have both your advice and assistance. My soul blushes to give you all this trouble; but what other friend have I?—indeed, what other friend could I apply to so properly on such an occasion?"
The doctor, with a very kind voice and countenance, desired her to speak. She then said, "O sir! that wicked colonel whom I have mentioned to you formerly hath picked some quarrel with my husband (for she did not think proper to mention the cause), and hath sent him a challenge. It came to my hand last night after he was arrested: I opened and read it."
"Give it me, child," said the doctor.
She answered she had burnt it, as was indeed true. "But I remember it was an appointment to meet with sword and pistol this morning at Hyde- park."
"Make yourself easy, my dear child," cries the doctor; "I will take care to prevent any mischief."
"But consider, my dear sir," said she, "this is a tender matter. My husband's honour is to be preserved as well as his life."
"And so is his soul, which ought to be the dearest of all things," cries the doctor. "Honour! nonsense! Can honour dictate to him to disobey the express commands of his Maker, in compliance with a custom established by a set of blockheads, founded on false principles of virtue, in direct opposition to the plain and positive precepts of religion, and tending manifestly to give a sanction to ruffians, and to protect them in all the ways of impudence and villany?"
"All this, I believe, is very true," cries Amelia; "but yet you know, doctor, the opinion of the world."
"You talk simply, child," cries the doctor. "What is the opinion of the world opposed to religion and virtue? but you are in the wrong. It is not the opinion of the world; it is the opinion of the idle, ignorant, and profligate. It is impossible it should be the opinion of one man of sense, who is in earnest in his belief of our religion. Chiefly, indeed, it hath been upheld by the nonsense of women, who, either from their extreme cowardice and desire of protection, or, as Mr. Bayle thinks, from their excessive vanity, have been always forward to countenance a set of hectors and bravoes, and to despise all men of modesty and sobriety; though these are often, at the bottom, not only the better but the braver men."
"You know, doctor," cries Amelia, "I have never presumed to argue with you; your opinion is to me always instruction, and your word a law."
"Indeed, child," cries the doctor, "I know you are a good woman; and yet I must observe to you, that this very desire of feeding the passion of female vanity with the heroism of her man, old Homer seems to make the characteristic of a bad and loose woman. He introduces Helen upbraiding her gallant with having quitted the fight, and left the victory to Menelaus, and seeming to be sorry that she had left her husband only because he was the better duellist of the two: but in how different a light doth he represent the tender and chaste love of Andromache to her worthy Hector! she dissuades him from exposing himself to danger, even in a just cause. This is indeed a weakness, but it is an amiable one, and becoming the true feminine character; but a woman who, out of heroic vanity (for so it is), would hazard not only the life but the soul too of her husband in a duel, is a monster, and ought to be painted in no other character but that of a Fury."
"I assure you, doctor," cries Amelia, "I never saw this matter in the odious light in which you have truly represented it, before. I am ashamed to recollect what I have formerly said on this subject. And yet, whilst the opinion of the world is as it is, one would wish to comply as far as possible, especially as my husband is an officer of the army. If it can be done, therefore, with safety to his honour—"
"Again honour!" cries the doctor; "indeed I will not suffer that noble word to be so basely and barbarously prostituted. I have known some of these men of honour, as they call themselves, to be the most arrant rascals in the universe."
"Well, I ask your pardon," said she; "reputation then, if you please, or any other word you like better; you know my meaning very well."
"I do know your meaning," cries the doctor, "and Virgil knew it a great while ago. The next time you see your friend Mrs. Atkinson, ask her what it was made Dido fall in love with AEneas?"
"Nay, dear sir," said Amelia, "do not rally me so unmercifully; think where my poor husband is now."
"He is," answered the doctor, "where I will presently be with him. In the mean time, do you pack up everything in order for your journey to- morrow; for if you are wise, you will not trust your husband a day longer in this town—therefore to packing."
Amelia promised she would, though indeed she wanted not any warning for her journey on this account; for when she packed up herself in the coach, she packed up her all. However, she did not think proper to mention this to the doctor; for, as he was now in pretty good humour, she did not care to venture again discomposing his temper.
The doctor then set out for Gray's-inn-lane, and, as soon as he was gone, Amelia began to consider of her incapacity to take a journey in her present situation without even a clean shift. At last she resolved, as she was possessed of seven guineas and a half, to go to her friend and redeem some of her own and her husband's linen out of captivity; indeed just so much as would render it barely possible for them to go out of town with any kind of decency. And this resolution she immediately executed.
As soon as she had finished her business with the pawnbroker (if a man who lends under thirty per cent. deserves that name), he said to her, "Pray, madam, did you know that man who was here yesterday when you brought the picture?" Amelia answered in the negative. "Indeed, madam," said the broker, "he knows you, though he did not recollect you while you was here, as your hood was drawn over your face; but the moment you was gone he begged to look at the picture, which I, thinking no harm, permitted. He had scarce looked upon it when he cried out, 'By heaven and earth it is her picture!' He then asked me if I knew you." "Indeed," says I, "I never saw the lady before."
In this last particular, however, the pawnbroker a little savoured of his profession, and made a small deviation from the truth, for, when the man had asked him if he knew the lady, he answered she was some poor undone woman who had pawned all her cloathes to him the day before; and I suppose, says he, this picture is the last of her goods and chattels. This hint we thought proper to give the reader, as it may chance to be material.
Amelia answered coldly that she had taken so very little notice of the man that she scarce remembered he was there.
"I assure you, madam," says the pawnbroker, "he hath taken very great notice of you; for the man changed countenance upon what I said, and presently after begged me to give him a dram. Oho! thinks I to myself, are you thereabouts? I would not be so much in love with some folks as some people are for more interest than I shall ever make of a thousand pound."
Amelia blushed, and said, with some peevishness, "That she knew nothing of the man, but supposed he was some impertinent fellow or other."
"Nay, madam," answered the pawnbroker, "I assure you he is not worthy your regard. He is a poor wretch, and I believe I am possessed of most of his moveables. However, I hope you are not offended, for indeed he said no harm; but he was very strangely disordered, that is the truth of it."
Amelia was very desirous of putting an end to this conversation, and altogether as eager to return to her children; she therefore bundled up her things as fast as she could, and, calling for a hackney-coach, directed the coachman to her lodgings, and bid him drive her home with all the haste he could.
In which Dr Harrison visits Colonel James.
The doctor, when he left Amelia, intended to go directly to Booth, but he presently changed his mind, and determined first to call on the colonel, as he thought it was proper to put an end to that matter before he gave Booth his liberty.
The doctor found the two colonels, James and Bath, together. They both received him very civilly, for James was a very well-bred man, and Bath always shewed a particular respect to the clergy, he being indeed a perfect good Christian, except in the articles of fighting and swearing.
Our divine sat some time without mentioning the subject of his errand, in hopes that Bath would go away, but when he found no likelihood of that (for indeed Bath was of the two much the most pleased with his company), he told James that he had something to say to him relating to Mr. Booth, which he believed he might speak before his brother.
"Undoubtedly, sir," said James; "for there can be no secrets between us which my brother may not hear."
"I come then to you, sir," said the doctor, "from the most unhappy woman in the world, to whose afflictions you have very greatly and very cruelly added by sending a challenge to her husband, which hath very luckily fallen into her hands; for, had the man for whom you designed it received it, I am afraid you would not have seen me upon this occasion."
"If I writ such a letter to Mr. Booth, sir," said James, "you may be assured I did not expect this visit in answer to it."
"I do not think you did," cries the doctor; "but you have great reason to thank Heaven for ordering this matter contrary to your expectations. I know not what trifle may have drawn this challenge from you, but, after what I have some reason to know of you, sir, I must plainly tell you that, if you had added to your guilt already committed against this man, that of having his blood upon your hands, your soul would have become as black as hell itself."
"Give me leave to say," cries the colonel, "this is a language which I am not used to hear; and if your cloth was not your protection you should not give it me with impunity. After what you know of me, sir! What do you presume to know of me to my disadvantage?"
"You say my cloth is my protection, colonel," answered the doctor; "therefore pray lay aside your anger: I do not come with any design of affronting or offending you."
"Very well," cries Bath; "that declaration is sufficient from a clergyman, let him say what he pleases."
"Indeed, sir," says the doctor very mildly, "I consult equally the good of you both, and, in a spiritual sense, more especially yours; for you know you have injured this poor man."
"So far on the contrary," cries James, "that I have been his greatest benefactor. I scorn to upbraid him, but you force me to it. Nor have I ever done him the least injury."
"Perhaps not," said the doctor; "I will alter what I have said. But for this I apply to your honour—Have you not intended him an injury, the very intention of which cancels every obligation?"
"How, sir?" answered the colonel; "what do you mean?"
"My meaning," replied the doctor, "is almost too tender to mention. Come, colonel, examine your own heart, and then answer me, on your honour, if you have not intended to do him the highest wrong which one man can do another?"
"I do not know what you mean by the question," answered the colonel.
"D—n me, the question is very transparent! "cries Bath." From any other man it would be an affront with the strongest emphasis, but from one of the doctor's cloth it demands a categorical answer."
"I am not a papist, sir," answered Colonel James, "nor am I obliged to confess to my priest. But if you have anything to say speak openly, for I do not understand your meaning."
"I have explained my meaning to you already," said the doctor, "in a letter I wrote to you on the subject—a subject which I am sorry I should have any occasion to write upon to a Christian."
"I do remember now," cries the colonel, "that I received a very impertinent letter, something like a sermon, against adultery; but I did not expect to hear the author own it to my face."
"That brave man then, sir," answered the doctor, "stands before you who dares own he wrote that letter, and dares affirm too that it was writ on a just and strong foundation. But if the hardness of your heart could prevail on you to treat my good intention with contempt and scorn, what, pray, could induce you to shew it, nay, to give it Mr. Booth? What motive could you have for that, unless you meant to insult him, and provoke your rival to give you that opportunity of putting him out of the world, which you have since wickedly sought by your challenge?"
"I give him the letter!" said the colonel.
"Yes, sir," answered the doctor, "he shewed me the letter, and affirmed that you gave it him at the masquerade."
"He is a lying rascal, then!" said the colonel very passionately. "I scarce took the trouble of reading the letter, and lost it out of my pocket."
Here Bath interfered, and explained this affair in the manner in which it happened, and with which the reader is already acquainted. He concluded by great eulogiums on the performance, and declared it was one of the most enthusiastic (meaning, perhaps, ecclesiastic) letters that ever was written. "And d—n me," says he, "if I do not respect the author with the utmost emphasis of thinking."
The doctor now recollected what had passed with Booth, and perceived he had made a mistake of one colonel for another. This he presently acknowledged to Colonel James, and said that the mistake had been his, and not Booth's.
Bath now collected all his gravity and dignity, as he called it, into his countenance, and, addressing himself to James, said, "And was that letter writ to you, brother?—I hope you never deserved any suspicion of this kind."
"Brother," cries James, "I am accountable to myself for my actions, and shall not render an account either to you or to that gentleman."
"As to me, brother," answered Bath, "you say right; but I think this gentleman may call you to an account; nay, I think it is his duty so to do. And let me tell you, brother, there is one much greater than he to whom you must give an account. Mrs. Booth is really a fine woman, a lady of most imperious and majestic presence. I have heard you often say that you liked her; and, if you have quarrelled with her husband upon this account, by all the dignity of man I think you ought to ask his pardon."
"Indeed, brother," cries James, "I can bear this no longer—you will make me angry presently."
"Angry! brother James," cries Bath; "angry!—I love you, brother, and have obligations to you. I will say no more, but I hope you know I do not fear making any man angry."
James answered he knew it well; and then the doctor, apprehending that while he was stopping up one breach he should make another, presently interfered, and turned the discourse back to Booth. "You tell me, sir," said he to James, "that my gown is my protection; let it then at least protect me where I have had no design in offending—where I have consulted your highest welfare, as in truth I did in writing this letter. And if you did not in the least deserve any such suspicion, still you have no cause for resentment. Caution against sin, even to the innocent, can never be unwholesome. But this I assure you, whatever anger you have to me, you can have none to poor Booth, who was entirely ignorant of my writing to you, and who, I am certain, never entertained the least suspicion of you; on the contrary, reveres you with the highest esteem, and love, and gratitude. Let me therefore reconcile all matters between you, and bring you together before he hath even heard of this challenge."
"Brother," cries Bath, "I hope I shall not make you angry—I lie when I say so; for I am indifferent to any man's anger. Let me be an accessory to what the doctor hath said. I think I may be trusted with matters of this nature, and it is a little unkind that, if you intended to send a challenge, you did not make me the bearer. But, indeed, as to what appears to me, this matter may be very well made up; and, as Mr. Booth doth not know of the challenge, I don't see why he ever should, any more than your giving him the lie just now; but that he shall never have from me, nor, I believe, from this gentleman; for, indeed, if he should, it would be incumbent upon him to cut your throat."
"Lookee, doctor," said James, "I do not deserve the unkind suspicion you just now threw out against me. I never thirsted after any man's blood; and, as for what hath passed, since this discovery hath happened, I may, perhaps, not think it worth my while to trouble myself any more about it."
The doctor was not contented with perhaps, he insisted on a firm promise, to be bound with the colonel's honour. This at length he obtained, and then departed well satisfied.
In fact, the colonel was ashamed to avow the real cause of the quarrel to this good man, or, indeed, to his brother Bath, who would not only have condemned him equally with the doctor, but would possibly have quarrelled with him on his sister's account, whom, as the reader must have observed, he loved above all things; and, in plain truth, though the colonel was a brave man, and dared to fight, yet he was altogether as willing to let it alone; and this made him now and then give a little way to the wrongheadedness of Colonel Bath, who, with all the other principles of honour and humanity, made no more of cutting the throat of a man upon any of his punctilios than a butcher doth of killing sheep.
What passed at the bailiff's house.
The doctor now set forwards to his friend Booth, and, as he past by the door of his attorney in the way, he called upon him and took him with him.
The meeting between him and Booth need not be expatiated on. The doctor was really angry, and, though he deferred his lecture to a more proper opportunity, yet, as he was no dissembler (indeed, he was incapable of any disguise), he could not put on a show of that heartiness with which he had formerly used to receive his friend.
Booth at last began himself in the following manner: "Doctor, I am really ashamed to see you; and, if you knew the confusion of my soul on this occasion, I am sure you would pity rather than upbraid me; and yet I can say with great sincerity I rejoice in this last instance of my shame, since I am like to reap the most solid advantage from it." The doctor stared at this, and Booth thus proceeded: "Since I have been in this wretched place I have employed my time almost entirely in reading over a series of sermons which are contained in that book (meaning Dr Barrow's works, which then lay on the table before him) in proof of the Christian religion; and so good an effect have they had upon me, that I shall, I believe, be the better man for them as long as I live. I have not a doubt (for I own I have had such) which remains now unsatisfied. If ever an angel might be thought to guide the pen of a writer, surely the pen of that great and good man had such an assistant." The doctor readily concurred in the praises of Dr Barrow, and added, "You say you have had your doubts, young gentleman; indeed, I did not know that—and, pray, what were your doubts?" "Whatever they were, sir," said Booth, "they are now satisfied, as I believe those of every impartial and sensible reader will be if he will, with due attention, read over these excellent sermons." "Very well," answered the doctor, "though I have conversed, I find, with a false brother hitherto, I am glad you are reconciled to truth at last, and I hope your future faith will have some influence on your future life." "I need not tell you, sir," replied Booth, "that will always be the case where faith is sincere, as I assure you mine is. Indeed, I never was a rash disbeliever; my chief doubt was founded on this— that, as men appeared to me to act entirely from their passions, their actions could have neither merit nor demerit." "A very worthy conclusion truly!" cries the doctor; "but if men act, as I believe they do, from their passions, it would be fair to conclude that religion to be true which applies immediately to the strongest of these passions, hope and fear; chusing rather to rely on its rewards and punishments than on that native beauty of virtue which some of the antient philosophers thought proper to recommend to their disciples. But we will defer this discourse till another opportunity; at present, as the devil hath thought proper to set you free, I will try if I can prevail on the bailiff to do the same."
The doctor had really not so much money in town as Booth's debt amounted to, and therefore, though he would otherwise very willingly have paid it, he was forced to give bail to the action. For which purpose, as the bailiff was a man of great form, he was obliged to get another person to be bound with him. This person, however, the attorney undertook to procure, and immediately set out in quest of him.
During his absence the bailiff came into the room, and, addressing himself to the doctor, said, "I think, sir, your name is Doctor Harrison?" The doctor immediately acknowledged his name. Indeed, the bailiff had seen it to a bail-bond before. "Why then, sir," said the bailiff, "there is a man above in a dying condition that desires the favour of speaking to you; I believe he wants you to pray by him."
The bailiff himself was not more ready to execute his office on all occasions for his fee than the doctor was to execute his for nothing. Without making any further enquiry therefore into the condition of the man, he immediately went up-stairs.
As soon as the bailiff returned down-stairs, which was immediately after he had lodged the doctor in the room, Booth had the curiosity to ask him who this man was. "Why, I don't know much of him," said the bailiff; "I had him once in custody before now: I remember it was when your honour was here last; and now I remember, too, he said that he knew your honour very well. Indeed, I had some opinion of him at that time, for he spent his money very much like a gentleman; but I have discovered since that he is a poor fellow, and worth nothing. He is a mere shy cock; I have had the stuff about me this week, and could never get at him till this morning; nay, I don't believe we should ever have found out his lodgings had it not been for the attorney that was here just now, who gave us information. And so we took him this morning by a comical way enough; for we dressed up one of my men in women's cloathes, who told the people of the house that he was his sister, just come to town—for we were told by the attorney that he had such a sister, upon which he was let up-stairs—and so kept the door ajar till I and another rushed in. Let me tell you, captain, there are as good stratagems made use of in our business as any in the army."
"But pray, sir," said Booth, "did not you tell me this morning that the poor fellow was desperately wounded; nay, I think you told the doctor that he was a dying man?" "I had like to have forgot that," cries the bailiff. "Nothing would serve the gentleman but that he must make resistance, and he gave my man a blow with a stick; but I soon quieted him by giving him a wipe or two with a hanger. Not that, I believe, I have done his business neither; but the fellow is faint- hearted, and the surgeon, I fancy, frightens him more than he need. But, however, let the worst come to the worst, the law is all on my side, and it is only se fendendo. The attorney that was here just now told me so, and bid me fear nothing; for that he would stand my friend, and undertake the cause; and he is a devilish good one at a defence at the Old Bailey, I promise you. I have known him bring off several that everybody thought would have been hanged."
"But suppose you should be acquitted," said Booth, "would not the blood of this poor wretch lie a little heavy at your heart?"
"Why should it, captain?" said the bailiff. "Is not all done in a lawful way? Why will people resist the law when they know the consequence? To be sure, if a man was to kill another in an unlawful manner as it were, and what the law calls murder, that is quite and clear another thing. I should not care to be convicted of murder any more than another man. Why now, captain, you have been abroad in the wars they tell me, and to be sure must have killed men in your time. Pray, was you ever afraid afterwards of seeing their ghosts?"
"That is a different affair," cries Booth; "but I would not kill a man in cold blood for all the world."
"There is no difference at all, as I can see," cries the bailiff. "One is as much in the way of business as the other. When gentlemen behave themselves like unto gentlemen I know how to treat them as such as well as any officer the king hath; and when they do not, why they must take what follows, and the law doth not call it murder."
Booth very plainly saw that the bailiff had squared his conscience exactly according to law, and that he could not easily subvert his way of thinking. He therefore gave up the cause, and desired the bailiff to expedite the bonds, which he promised to do; saying, he hoped he had used him with proper civility this time, if he had not the last, and that he should be remembered for it.
But before we close this chapter we shall endeavour to satisfy an enquiry, which may arise in our most favourite readers (for so are the most curious), how it came to pass that such a person as was Doctor Harrison should employ such a fellow as this Murphy?
The case then was thus: this Murphy had been clerk to an attorney in the very same town in which the doctor lived, and, when he was out of his time, had set up with a character fair enough, and had married a maid-servant of Mrs. Harris, by which means he had all the business to which that lady and her friends, in which number was the doctor, could recommend him.
Murphy went on with his business, and thrived very well, till he happened to make an unfortunate slip, in which he was detected by a brother of the same calling. But, though we call this by the gentle name of a slip, in respect to its being so extremely common, it was a matter in which the law, if it had ever come to its ears, would have passed a very severe censure, being, indeed, no less than perjury and subornation of perjury.
This brother attorney, being a very good-natured man, and unwilling to bespatter his own profession, and considering, perhaps, that the consequence did in no wise affect the public, who had no manner of interest in the alternative whether A., in whom the right was, or B., to whom Mr. Murphy, by the means aforesaid, had transferred it, succeeded in an action; we mention this particular, because, as this brother attorney was a very violent party man, and a professed stickler for the public, to suffer any injury to have been done to that, would have been highly inconsistent with his principles.
This gentleman, therefore, came to Mr. Murphy, and, after shewing him that he had it in his power to convict him of the aforesaid crime, very generously told him that he had not the least delight in bringing any man to destruction, nor the least animosity against him. All that he insisted upon was, that he would not live in the same town or county with one who had been guilty of such an action. He then told Mr. Murphy that he would keep the secret on two conditions; the one was, that he immediately quitted that country; the other was, that he should convince him he deserved this kindness by his gratitude, and that Murphy should transfer to the other all the business which he then had in those parts, and to which he could possibly recommend him.
It is the observation of a very wise man, that it is a very common exercise of wisdom in this world, of two evils to chuse the least. The reader, therefore, cannot doubt but that Mr. Murphy complied with the alternative proposed by his kind brother, and accepted the terms on which secrecy was to be obtained.
This happened while the doctor was abroad, and with all this, except the departure of Murphy, not only the doctor, but the whole town (save his aforesaid brother alone), were to this day unacquainted.
The doctor, at his return, hearing that Mr. Murphy was gone, applied to the other attorney in his affairs, who still employed this Murphy as his agent in town, partly, perhaps, out of good will to him, and partly from the recommendation of Miss Harris; for, as he had married a servant of the family, and a particular favourite of hers, there can be no wonder that she, who was entirely ignorant of the affair above related, as well as of his conduct in town, should continue her favour to him. It will appear, therefore, I apprehend, no longer strange that the doctor, who had seen this man but three times since his removal to town, and then conversed with him only on business, should remain as ignorant of his life and character, as a man generally is of the character of the hackney-coachman who drives him. Nor doth it reflect more on the honour or understanding of the doctor, under these circumstances, to employ Murphy, than it would if he had been driven about the town by a thief or a murderer.
What passed between the doctor and the sick man.
We left the doctor in the last chapter with the wounded man, to whom the doctor, in a very gentle voice, spoke as follows:—
"I am sorry, friend, to see you in this situation, and am very ready to give you any comfort or assistance within my power."
"I thank you kindly, doctor," said the man. "Indeed I should not have presumed to have sent to you had I not known your character; for, though I believe I am not at all known to you, I have lived many years in that town where you yourself had a house; my name is Robinson. I used to write for the attorneys in those parts, and I have been employed on your business in my time."
"I do not recollect you nor your name," said the doctor; "but consider, friend, your moments are precious, and your business, as I am informed, is to offer up your prayers to that great Being before whom you are shortly to appear. But first let me exhort you earnestly to a most serious repentance of all your sins."
"O doctor!" said the man; "pray; what is your opinion of a death-bed repentance?"
"If repentance is sincere," cries the doctor, "I hope, through the mercies and merits of our most powerful and benign Intercessor, it will never come too late."
"But do not you think, sir," cries the man, "that, in order to obtain forgiveness of any great sin we have committed, by an injury done to our neighbours, it is necessary, as far as in us lies, to make all the amends we can to the party injured, and to undo, if possible, the injury we have done?"
"Most undoubtedly," cries the doctor; "our pretence to repentance would otherwise be gross hypocrisy, and an impudent attempt to deceive and impose upon our Creator himself."
"Indeed, I am of the same opinion," cries the penitent; "and I think further, that this is thrown in my way, and hinted to me by that great Being; for an accident happened to me yesterday, by which, as things have fallen out since, I think I plainly discern the hand of Providence. I went yesterday, sir, you must know, to a pawnbroker's, to pawn the last moveable, which, except the poor cloathes you see on my back, I am worth in the world. While I was there a young lady came in to pawn her picture. She had disguised herself so much, and pulled her hood so over her face, that I did not know her while she stayed, which was scarce three minutes. As soon as she was gone the pawnbroker, taking the picture in his hand, cried out, Upon my word, this is the handsomest face I ever saw in my life! I desired him to let me look on the picture, which he readily did—and I no sooner cast my eyes upon it, than the strong resemblance struck me, and I knew it to be Mrs. Booth."
"Mrs. Booth! what Mrs. Booth?" cries the doctor.
"Captain Booth's lady, the captain who is now below," said the other.
"How?" cries the doctor with great impetuosity.
"Have patience," said the man, "and you shall hear all. I expressed some surprize to the pawnbroker, and asked the lady's name. He answered, that he knew not her name; but that she was some undone wretch, who had the day before left all her cloathes with him in pawn. My guilt immediately flew in my face, and told me I had been accessory to this lady's undoing. The sudden shock so affected me, that, had it not been for a dram which the pawnbroker gave me, I believe I should have sunk on the spot."
"Accessary to her undoing! how accessary?" said the doctor. "Pray tell me, for I am impatient to hear."
"I will tell you all as fast as I can," cries the sick man. "You know, good doctor, that Mrs. Harris of our town had two daughters, this Mrs. Booth and another. Now, sir, it seems the other daughter had, some way or other, disobliged her mother a little before the old lady died; therefore she made a will, and left all her fortune, except one thousand pound, to Mrs. Booth; to which will Mr. Murphy, myself, and another who is now dead, were the witnesses. Mrs. Harris afterwards died suddenly; upon which it was contrived by her other daughter and Mr. Murphy to make a new will, in which Mrs. Booth had a legacy of ten pound, and all the rest was given to the other. To this will, Murphy, myself, and the same third person, again set our hands."
"Good Heaven! how wonderful is thy providence!" cries the doctor— "Murphy, say you?"
"He himself, sir," answered Robinson; "Murphy, who is the greatest rogue, I believe, now in the world."
"Pray, sir, proceed," cries the doctor.
"For this service, sir," said Robinson, "myself and the third person, one Carter, received two hundred pound each. What reward Murphy himself had I know not. Carter died soon afterwards; and from that time, at several payments, I have by threats extorted above a hundred pound more. And this, sir, is the whole truth, which I am ready to testify if it would please Heaven to prolong my life."
"I hope it will," cries the doctor; "but something must be done for fear of accidents. I will send to counsel immediately to know how to secure your testimony.—Whom can I get to send?—Stay, ay—he will do —but I know not where his house or his chambers are. I will go myself —but I may be wanted here."
While the doctor was in this violent agitation the surgeon made his appearance. The doctor stood still in a meditating posture, while the surgeon examined his patient. After which the doctor begged him to declare his opinion, and whether he thought the wounded man in any immediate danger of death. "I do not know," answered the surgeon, "what you call immediate. He may live several days—nay, he may recover. It is impossible to give any certain opinion in these cases." He then launched forth into a set of terms which the doctor, with all his scholarship, could not understand. To say the truth, many of them were not to be found in any dictionary or lexicon.
One discovery, however, the doctor made, and that was, that the surgeon was a very ignorant, conceited fellow, and knew nothing of his profession. He resolved, therefore, to get better advice for the sick; but this he postponed at present, and, applying himself to the surgeon, said, "He should be very much obliged to him if he knew where to find such a counsellor, and would fetch him thither. I should not ask such a favour of you, sir," says the doctor, "if it was not on business of the last importance, or if I could find any other messenger."
"I fetch, sir!" said the surgeon very angrily. "Do you take me for a footman or a porter? I don't know who you are; but I believe you are full as proper to go on such an errand as I am." (For as the doctor, who was just come off his journey, was very roughly dressed, the surgeon held him in no great respect.) The surgeon then called aloud from the top of the stairs, "Let my coachman draw up," and strutted off without any ceremony, telling his patient he would call again the next day.
At this very instant arrived Murphy with the other bail, and, finding Booth alone, he asked the bailiff at the door what was become of the doctor? "Why, the doctor," answered he, "is above-stairs, praying with ——-." "How!" cries Murphy. "How came you not to carry him directly to Newgate, as you promised me?" "Why, because he was wounded," cries the bailiff. "I thought it was charity to take care of him; and, besides, why should one make more noise about the matter than is necessary?" "And Doctor Harrison with him?" said Murphy. "Yes, he is," said the bailiff; "he desired to speak with the doctor very much, and they have been praying together almost this hour." "All is up and undone!" cries Murphy. "Let me come by, I have thought of something which I must do immediately."
Now, as by means of the surgeon's leaving the door open the doctor heard Murphy's voice naming Robinson peevishly, he drew softly to the top of the stairs, where he heard the foregoing dialogue; and as soon as Murphy had uttered his last words, and was moving downwards, the doctor immediately sallied from his post, running as fast as he could, and crying, Stop the villain! stop the thief!
The attorney wanted no better hint to accelerate his pace; and, having the start of the doctor, got downstairs, and out into the street; but the doctor was so close at his heels, and being in foot the nimbler of the two, he soon overtook him, and laid hold of him, as he would have done on either Broughton or Slack in the same cause.
This action in the street, accompanied with the frequent cry of Stop thief by the doctor during the chase, presently drew together a large mob, who began, as is usual, to enter immediately upon business, and to make strict enquiry into the matter, in order to proceed to do justice in their summary way.
Murphy, who knew well the temper of the mob, cried out, "If you are a bailiff, shew me your writ. Gentlemen, he pretends to arrest me here without a writ."
Upon this, one of the sturdiest and forwardest of the mob, and who by a superior strength of body and of lungs presided in this assembly, declared he would suffer no such thing. "D—n me," says he, "away to the pump with the catchpole directly—shew me your writ, or let the gentleman go—you shall not arrest a man contrary to law."
He then laid his hands on the doctor, who, still fast griping the attorney, cried out, "He is a villain—I am no bailiff, but a clergyman, and this lawyer is guilty of forgery, and hath ruined a poor family."
"How!" cries the spokesman—"a lawyer!—that alters the case."
"Yes, faith," cries another of the mob, "it is lawyer Murphy. I know him very well."
"And hath he ruined a poor family?—like enough, faith, if he's a lawyer. Away with him to the justice immediately."
The bailiff now came up, desiring to know what was the matter; to whom Doctor Harrison answered that he had arrested that villain for a forgery. "How can you arrest him?" cries the bailiff; "you are no officer, nor have any warrant. Mr. Murphy is a gentleman, and he shall be used as such."
"Nay, to be sure," cries the spokesman, "there ought to be a warrant; that's the truth on't."
"There needs no warrant," cries the doctor. "I accuse him of felony; and I know so much of the law of England, that any man may arrest a felon without any warrant whatever. This villain hath undone a poor family; and I will die on the spot before I part with him."
"If the law be so," cries the orator, "that is another matter. And to be sure, to ruin a poor man is the greatest of sins. And being a lawyer too makes it so much the worse. He shall go before the justice, d—n me if he shan't go before the justice! I says the word, he shall."
"I say he is a gentleman, and shall be used according to law," cries the bailiff; "and, though you are a clergyman," said he to Harrison, "you don't shew yourself as one by your actions."
"That's a bailiff," cries one of the mob: "one lawyer will always stand by another; but I think the clergyman is a very good man, and acts becoming a clergyman, to stand by the poor."
At which words the mob all gave a great shout, and several cried out, "Bring him along, away with him to the justice!"
And now a constable appeared, and with an authoritative voice declared what he was, produced his staff, and demanded the peace.
The doctor then delivered his prisoner over to the officer, and charged him with felony; the constable received him, the attorney submitted, the bailiff was hushed, and the waves of the mob immediately subsided.
The doctor now balanced with himself how he should proceed: at last he determined to leave Booth a little longer in captivity, and not to quit sight of Murphy before he had lodged him safe with a magistrate. They then all moved forwards to the justice; the constable and his prisoner marching first, the doctor and the bailiff following next, and about five thousand mob (for no less number were assembled in a very few minutes) following in the procession.
They found the magistrate just sitting down to his dinner; however, when he was acquainted with the doctor's profession, he immediately admitted him, and heard his business; which he no sooner perfectly understood, with all its circumstances, than he resolved, though it was then very late, and he had been fatigued all the morning with public business, to postpone all refreshment till he had discharged his duty. He accordingly adjourned the prisoner and his cause to the bailiff's house, whither he himself, with the doctor, immediately repaired, and whither the attorney was followed by a much larger number of attendants than he had been honoured with before.
In which the history draws towards a conclusion.
Nothing could exceed the astonishment of Booth at the behaviour of the doctor at the time when he sallied forth in pursuit of the attorney; for which it was so impossible for him to account in any manner whatever. He remained a long time in the utmost torture of mind, till at last the bailif's wife came to him, and asked him if the doctor was not a madman? and, in truth, he could hardly defend him from that imputation.
While he was in this perplexity the maid of the house brought him a message from Robinson, desiring the favour of seeing him above-stairs. With this he immediately complied.
When these two were alone together, and the key turned on them (for the bailiff's wife was a most careful person, and never omitted that ceremony in the absence of her husband, having always at her tongue's end that excellent proverb of "Safe bind, safe find"), Robinson, looking stedfastly upon Booth, said, "I believe, sir, you scarce remember me."
Booth answered that he thought he had seen his face somewhere before, but could not then recollect when or where.
"Indeed, sir," answered the man, "it was a place which no man can remember with pleasure. But do you not remember, a few weeks ago, that you had the misfortune to be in a certain prison in this town, where you lost a trifling sum at cards to a fellow-prisoner?"
This hint sufficiently awakened Booth's memory, and he now recollected the features of his old friend Robinson. He answered him a little surlily, "I know you now very well, but I did not imagine you would ever have reminded me of that transaction."
"Alas, sir!" answered Robinson, "whatever happened then was very trifling compared to the injuries I have done you; but if my life be spared long enough I will now undo it all: and, as I have been one of your worst enemies, I will now be one of your best friends."
He was just entering upon his story when a noise was heard below which might be almost compared to what have been heard in Holland when the dykes have given way, and the ocean in an inundation breaks in upon the land. It seemed, indeed, as if the whole world was bursting into the house at once.
Booth was a man of great firmness of mind, and he had need of it all at this instant. As for poor Robinson, the usual concomitants of guilt attended him, and he began to tremble in a violent manner.
The first person who ascended the stairs was the doctor, who no sooner saw Booth than he ran to him and embraced him, crying, "My child, I wish you joy with all my heart. Your sufferings are all at an end, and Providence hath done you the justice at last which it will, one day or other, render to all men. You will hear all presently; but I can now only tell you that your sister is discovered and the estate is your own."
Booth was in such confusion that he scarce made any answer, and now appeared the justice and his clerk, and immediately afterwards the constable with his prisoner, the bailiff, and as many more as could possibly crowd up-stairs.
The doctor now addressed himself to the sick man, and desired him to repeat the same information before the justice which he had made already; to which Robinson readily consented.
While the clerk was taking down the information, the attorney expressed a very impatient desire to send instantly for his clerk, and expressed so much uneasiness at the confusion in which he had left his papers at home, that a thought suggested itself to the doctor that, if his house was searched, some lights and evidence relating to this affair would certainly be found; he therefore desired the justice to grant a search-warrant immediately to search his house.
The justice answered that he had no such power; that, if there was any suspicion of stolen goods, he could grant a warrant to search for them.
"How, sir!" said the doctor, "can you grant a warrant to search a man's house for a silver tea-spoon, and not in a case like this, where a man is robbed of his whole estate?"
"Hold, sir," says the sick man; "I believe I can answer that point; for I can swear he hath several title-deeds of the estate now in his possession, which I am sure were stolen from the right owner."
The justice still hesitated. He said title-deeds savoured of the Realty, and it was not felony to steal them. If, indeed, they were taken away in a box, then it would be felony to steal the box.
"Savour of the Realty! Savour of the f—talty," said the doctor. "I never heard such incomprehensible nonsense. This is impudent, as well as childish trifling with the lives and properties of men."
"Well, sir," said Robinson, "I now am sure I can do his business; for I know he hath a silver cup in his possession which is the property of this gentleman (meaning Booth), and how he got it but by stealth let him account if he can."
"That will do," cries the justice with great pleasure. "That will do; and if you will charge him on oath with that, I will instantly grant my warrant to search his house for it." "And I will go and see it executed," cries the doctor; for it was a maxim of his, that no man could descend below himself in doing any act which may contribute to protect an innocent person, or to bring a rogue to the gallows.
The oath was instantly taken, the warrant signed, and the doctor attended the constable in the execution of it.
The clerk then proceeded in taking the information of Robinson, and had just finished it, when the doctor returned with the utmost joy in his countenance, and declared that he had sufficient evidence of the fact in his possession. He had, indeed, two or three letters from Miss Harris in answer to the attorney's frequent demands of money for secrecy, that fully explained the whole villany.
The justice now asked the prisoner what he had to say for himself, or whether he chose to say anything in his own defence.
"Sir," said the attorney, with great confidence, "I am not to defend myself here. It will be of no service to me; for I know you neither can nor will discharge me. But I am extremely innocent of all this matter, as I doubt not but to make appear to the satisfaction of a court of justice."
The legal previous ceremonies were then gone through of binding over the prosecutor, &c., and then the attorney was committed to Newgate, whither he was escorted amidst the acclamations of the populace.
When Murphy was departed, and a little calm restored in the house, the justice made his compliments of congratulation to Booth, who, as well as he could in his present tumult of joy, returned his thanks to both the magistrate and the doctor. They were now all preparing to depart, when Mr. Bondum stept up to Booth, and said, "Hold, sir, you have forgot one thing—you have not given bail yet."
This occasioned some distress at this time, for the attorney's friend was departed; but when the justice heard this, he immediately offered himself as the other bondsman, and thus ended the affair.
It was now past six o'clock, and none of the gentlemen had yet dined. They very readily, therefore, accepted the magistrate's invitation, and went all together to his house.
And now the very first thing that was done, even before they sat down to dinner, was to dispatch a messenger to one of the best surgeons in town to take care of Robinson, and another messenger to Booth's lodgings to prevent Amelia's concern at their staying so long.
The latter, however, was to little purpose; for Amelia's patience had been worn out before, and she had taken a hackney-coach and driven to the bailiff's, where she arrived a little after the departure of her husband, and was thence directed to the justice's.
Though there was no kind of reason for Amelia's fright at hearing that her husband and Doctor Harrison were gone before the justice, and though she indeed imagined that they were there in the light of complainants, not of offenders, yet so tender were her fears for her husband, and so much had her gentle spirits been lately agitated, that she had a thousand apprehensions of she knew not what. When she arrived, therefore, at the house, she ran directly into the room where all the company were at dinner, scarce knowing what she did or whither she was going.
She found her husband in such a situation, and discovered such chearfulness in his countenance, that so violent a turn was given to her spirits that she was just able, with the assistance of a glass of water, to support herself. She soon, however, recovered her calmness, and in a little time began to eat what might indeed be almost called her breakfast.
The justice now wished her joy of what had happened that day, for which she kindly thanked him, apprehending he meant the liberty of her husband. His worship might perhaps have explained himself more largely had not the doctor given him a timely wink; for this wise and good man was fearful of making such a discovery all at once to Amelia, lest it should overpower her, and luckily the justice's wife was not well enough acquainted with the matter to say anything more on it than barely to assure the lady that she joined in her husband's congratulation.
Amelia was then in a clean white gown, which she had that day redeemed, and was, indeed, dressed all over with great neatness and exactness; with the glow therefore which arose in her features from finding her husband released from his captivity, she made so charming a figure, that she attracted the eyes of the magistrate and of his wife, and they both agreed when they were alone that they had never seen so charming a creature; nay, Booth himself afterwards told her that he scarce ever remembered her to look so extremely beautiful as she did that evening.
Whether Amelia's beauty, or the reflexion on the remarkable act of justice he had performed, or whatever motive filled the magistrate with extraordinary good humour, and opened his heart and cellars, I will not determine; but he gave them so hearty a welcome, and they were all so pleased with each other, that Amelia, for that one night, trusted the care of her children to the woman where they lodged, nor did the company rise from table till the clock struck eleven.
They then separated. Amelia and Booth, having been set down at their lodgings, retired into each other's arms; nor did Booth that evening, by the doctor's advice, mention one word of the grand affair to his wife.
Thus this history draws nearer to a conclusion.
In the morning early Amelia received the following letter from Mrs. Atkinson:
"The surgeon of the regiment, to which the captain my husband lately belonged, and who came this evening to see the captain, hath almost frightened me out of my wits by a strange story of your husband being committed to prison by a justice of peace for forgery. For Heaven's sake send me the truth. If my husband can be of any service, weak as he is, he will be carried in a chair to serve a brother officer for whom he hath a regard, which I need not mention. Or if the sum of twenty pound will be of any service to you, I will wait upon you with it the moment I can get my cloaths on, the morning you receive this; for it is too late to send to-night. The captain begs his hearty service and respects, and believe me,
"Dear Madam, Your ever affectionate friend, and humble servant, F. ATKINSON."
When Amelia read this letter to Booth they were both equally surprized, she at the commitment for forgery, and he at seeing such a letter from Mrs. Atkinson; for he was a stranger yet to the reconciliation that had happened.
Booth's doubts were first satisfied by Amelia, from which he received great pleasure; for he really had a very great affection and fondness for Mr. Atkinson, who, indeed, so well deserved it. "Well, my dear," said he to Amelia, smiling, "shall we accept this generous offer?"
"O fy! no, certainly," answered she.
"Why not?" cries Booth; "it is but a trifle; and yet it will be of great service to us."
"But consider, my dear," said she, "how ill these poor people can spare it."
"They can spare it for a little while," said Booth, "and we shall soon pay it them again."
"When, my dear?" said Amelia. "Do, my dear Will, consider our wretched circumstances. I beg you let us go into the country immediately, and live upon bread and water till Fortune pleases to smile upon us."
"I am convinced that day is not far off," said Booth. "However, give me leave to send an answer to Mrs. Atkinson, that we shall be glad of her company immediately to breakfast."
"You know I never contradict you," said she, "but I assure you it is contrary to my inclinations to take this money."
"Well, suffer me," cries he, "to act this once contrary to your inclinations." He then writ a short note to Mrs. Atkinson, and dispatched it away immediately; which when he had done, Amelia said, "I shall be glad of Mrs. Atkinson's company to breakfast; but yet I wish you would oblige me in refusing this money. Take five guineas only. That is indeed such a sum as, if we never should pay it, would sit light on my mind. The last persons in the world from whom I would receive favours of that sort are the poor and generous."
"You can receive favours only from the generous," cries Booth; "and, to be plain with you, there are very few who are generous that are not poor."
"What think you," said she, "of Dr Harrison?"
"I do assure you," said Booth, "he is far from being rich. The doctor hath an income of little more than six hundred pound a-year, and I am convinced he gives away four of it. Indeed, he is one of the best economists in the world: but yet I am positive he never was at any time possessed of five hundred pound, since he hath been a man. Consider, dear Emily, the late obligations we have to this gentleman; it would be unreasonable to expect more, at least at present; my half- pay is mortgaged for a year to come. How then shall we live?"
"By our labour," answered she; "I am able to labour, and I am sure I am not ashamed of it."
"And do you really think you can support such a life?"
"I am sure I could be happy in it," answered Amelia. "And why not I as well as a thousand others, who have not the happiness of such a husband to make life delicious? why should I complain of my hard fate while so many who are much poorer than I enjoy theirs? Am I of a superior rank of being to the wife of the honest labourer? am I not partaker of one common nature with her?"
"My angel," cries Booth, "it delights me to hear you talk thus, and for a reason you little guess; for I am assured that one who can so heroically endure adversity, will bear prosperity with equal greatness of soul; for the mind that cannot be dejected by the former, is not likely to be transported with the latter."
"If it had pleased Heaven," cried she, "to have tried me, I think, at least I hope, I should have preserved my humility."
"Then, my dear," said he, "I will relate you a dream I had last night. You know you lately mentioned a dream of yours."
"Do so," said she; "I am attentive."
"I dreamt," said he, "this night, that we were in the most miserable situation imaginable; indeed, in the situation we were yesterday morning, or rather worse; that I was laid in a prison for debt, and that you wanted a morsel of bread to feed the mouths of your hungry children. At length (for nothing you know is quicker than the transition in dreams) Dr Harrison methought came to me, with chearfulness and joy in his countenance. The prison-doors immediately flew open, and Dr Harrison introduced you, gayly though not richly dressed. That you gently chid me for staying so long. All on a sudden appeared a coach with four horses to it, in which was a maid-servant with our two children. We both immediately went into the coach, and, taking our leave of the doctor, set out towards your country-house; for yours I dreamt it was. I only ask you now, if this was real, and the transition almost as sudden, could you support it?"
Amelia was going to answer, when Mrs. Atkinson came into the room, and after very little previous ceremony, presented Booth with a bank-note, which he received of her, saying he would very soon repay it; a promise that a little offended Amelia, as she thought he had no chance of keeping it.
The doctor presently arrived, and the company sat down to breakfast, during which Mrs. Atkinson entertained them with the history of the doctors that had attended her husband, by whose advice Atkinson was recovered from everything but the weakness which his distemper had occasioned.
When the tea-table was removed Booth told the doctor that he had acquainted his wife with a dream he had last night. "I dreamt, doctor," said he, "that she was restored to her estate."
"Very well," said the doctor; "and if I am to be the Oneiropolus, I believe the dream will come to pass. To say the truth, I have rather a better opinion of dreams than Horace had. Old Homer says they come from Jupiter; and as to your dream, I have often had it in my waking thoughts, that some time or other that roguery (for so I was always convinced it was) would be brought to light; for the same Homer says, as you, madam (meaning Mrs. Atkinson), very well know,
[Footnote: "If Jupiter doth not immediately execute his vengeance, he will however execute it at last; and their transgressions shall fall heavily on their own heads, and on their wives and children."]
"I have no Greek ears, sir," said Mrs. Atkinson. "I believe I could understand it in the Delphin Homer."
"I wish," cries he, "my dear child (to Amelia), you would read a little in the Delphin Aristotle, or else in some Christian divine, to learn a doctrine which you will one day have a use for. I mean to bear the hardest of all human conflicts, and support with an even temper, and without any violent transports of mind, a sudden gust of prosperity."
"Indeed," cries Amelia, "I should almost think my husband and you, doctor, had some very good news to tell me, by your using, both of you, the same introduction. As far as I know myself, I think I can answer I can support any degree of prosperity, and I think I yesterday shewed I could: for I do assure you, it is not in the power of fortune to try me with such another transition from grief to joy, as I conceived from seeing my husband in prison and at liberty."
"Well, you are a good girl," cries the doctor, "and after I have put on my spectacles I will try you."
The doctor then took out a newspaper, and read as follows:
"'Yesterday one Murphy, an eminent attorney-at-law, was committed to Newgate for the forgery of a will under which an estate hath been for many years detained from the right owner.'
"Now in this paragraph there is something very remarkable, and that is—that it is true: but opus est explanatu. In the Delphin edition of this newspaper there is the following note upon the words right owner:—'The right owner of this estate is a young lady of the highest merit, whose maiden name was Harris, and who some time since was married to an idle fellow, one Lieutenant Booth. And the best historians assure us that letters from the elder sister of this lady, which manifestly prove the forgery and clear up the whole affair, are in the hands of an old Parson called Doctor Harrison.'"
"And is this really true?" cries Amelia.
"Yes, really and sincerely," cries the doctor. "The whole estate; for your mother left it you all, and is as surely yours as if you was already in possession."
"Gracious Heaven!" cries she, falling on her knees, "I thank you!" And then starting up, she ran to her husband, and, embracing him, cried, "My dear love, I wish you joy; and I ought in gratitude to wish it you; for you are the cause of mine. It is upon yours and my children's account that I principally rejoice."
Mrs. Atkinson rose from her chair, and jumped about the room for joy, repeating,
Turne, quod oplanti divum promittere nemo Auderet, volvenda dies, en, attulit ultro.
[Footnote: "What none of all the Gods could grant thy vows, That, Turnus, this auspicious day bestows."]
Amelia now threw herself into a chair, complained she was a little faint, and begged a glass of water. The doctor advised her to be blooded; but she refused, saying she required a vent of another kind. She then desired her children to be brought to her, whom she immediately caught in her arms, and, having profusely cried over them for several minutes, declared she was easy. After which she soon regained her usual temper and complexion.
That day they dined together, and in the afternoon they all, except the doctor, visited Captain Atkinson; he repaired to the bailiff's house to visit the sick man, whom he found very chearful, the surgeon having assured him that he was in no danger.
The doctor had a long spiritual discourse with Robinson, who assured him that he sincerely repented of his past life, that he was resolved to lead his future days in a different manner, and to make what amends he could for his sins to the society, by bringing one of the greatest rogues in it to justice. There was a circumstance which much pleased the doctor, and made him conclude that, however Robinson had been corrupted by his old master, he had naturally a good disposition. This was, that Robinson declared he was chiefly induced to the discovery by what had happened at the pawnbroker's, and by the miseries which he there perceived he had been instrumental in bringing on Booth and his family.
The next day Booth and his wife, at the doctor's instance, dined with Colonel James and his lady, where they were received with great civility, and all matters were accommodated without Booth ever knowing a syllable of the challenge even to this day.
The doctor insisted very strongly on having Miss Harris taken into custody, and said, if she was his sister, he would deliver her to justice. He added besides, that it was impossible to skreen her and carry on the prosecution, or, indeed, recover the estate. Amelia at last begged the delay of one day only, in which time she wrote a letter to her sister, informing her of the discovery, and the danger in which she stood, and begged her earnestly to make her escape, with many assurances that she would never suffer her to know any distress. This letter she sent away express, and it had the desired effect; for Miss Harris, having received sufficient information from the attorney to the same purpose, immediately set out for Poole, and from thence to France, carrying with her all her money, most of her cloaths, and some few jewels. She had, indeed, packed up plate and jewels to the value of two thousand pound and upwards. But Booth, to whom Amelia communicated the letter, prevented her by ordering the man that went with the express (who had been a serjeant of the foot-guards recommended to him by Atkinson) to suffer the lady to go whither she pleased, but not to take anything with her except her cloaths, which he was carefully to search. These orders were obeyed punctually, and with these she was obliged to comply.
Two days after the bird was flown a warrant from the lord chief justice arrived to take her up, the messenger of which returned with the news of her flight, highly to the satisfaction of Amelia, and consequently of Booth, and, indeed, not greatly to the grief of the doctor.
About a week afterwards Booth and Amelia, with their children, and Captain Atkinson and his lady, all set forward together for Amelia's house, where they arrived amidst the acclamations of all the neighbours, and every public demonstration of joy.
They found the house ready prepared to receive them by Atkinson's friend the old serjeant, and a good dinner prepared for them by Amelia's old nurse, who was addressed with the utmost duty by her son and daughter, most affectionately caressed by Booth and his wife, and by Amelia's absolute command seated next to herself at the table. At which, perhaps, were assembled some of the best and happiest people then in the world.
In which the history is concluded.
Having brought our history to a conclusion, as to those points in which we presume our reader was chiefly interested, in the foregoing chapter, we shall in this, by way of epilogue, endeavour to satisfy his curiosity as to what hath since happened to the principal personages of whom we have treated in the foregoing pages.
Colonel James and his lady, after living in a polite manner for many years together, at last agreed to live in as polite a manner asunder. The colonel hath kept Miss Matthews ever since, and is at length grown to doat on her (though now very disagreeable in her person, and immensely fat) to such a degree, that he submits to be treated by her in the most tyrannical manner.
He allows his lady eight hundred pound a-year, with which she divides her time between Tunbridge, Bath, and London, and passes about nine hours in the twenty-four at cards. Her income is lately increased by three thousand pound left her by her brother Colonel Bath, who was killed in a duel about six years ago by a gentleman who told the colonel he differed from him in opinion.
The noble peer and Mrs. Ellison have been both dead several years, and both of the consequences of their favourite vices; Mrs. Ellison having fallen a martyr to her liquor, and the other to his amours, by which he was at last become so rotten that he stunk above-ground.
The attorney, Murphy, was brought to his trial at the Old Bailey, where, after much quibbling about the meaning of a very plain act of parliament, he was at length convicted of forgery, and was soon afterwards hanged at Tyburn.
The witness for some time seemed to reform his life, and received a small pension from Booth; after which he returned to vicious courses, took a purse on the highway, was detected and taken, and followed the last steps of his old master. So apt are men whose manners have been once thoroughly corrupted, to return, from any dawn of an amendment, into the dark paths of vice.
As to Miss Harris, she lived three years with a broken heart at Boulogne, where she received annually fifty pound from her sister, who was hardly prevailed on by Dr Harrison not to send her a hundred, and then died in a most miserable manner.
Mr. Atkinson upon the whole hath led a very happy life with his wife, though he hath been sometimes obliged to pay proper homage to her superior understanding and knowledge. This, however, he chearfully submits to, and she makes him proper returns of fondness. They have two fine boys, of whom they are equally fond. He is lately advanced to the rank of captain, and last summer both he and his wife paid a visit of three months to Booth and his wife.
Dr Harrison is grown old in years and in honour, beloved and respected by all his parishioners and by all his neighbours. He divides his time between his parish, his old town, and Booth's—at which last place he had, two years ago, a gentle fit of the gout, being the first attack of that distemper. During this fit Amelia was his nurse, and her two oldest daughters sat up alternately with him for a whole week. The eldest of those girls, whose name is Amelia, is his favourite; she is the picture of her mother, and it is thought the doctor hath distinguished her in his will, for he hath declared that he will leave his whole fortune, except some few charities, among Amelia's children.
As to Booth and Amelia, Fortune seems to have made them large amends for the tricks she played them in their youth. They have, ever since the above period of this history, enjoyed an uninterrupted course of health and happiness. In about six weeks after Booth's first coming into the country he went to London and paid all his debts of honour; after which, and a stay of two days only, he returned into the country, and hath never since been thirty miles from home. He hath two boys and four girls; the eldest of the boys, he who hath made his appearance in this history, is just come from the university, and is one of the finest gentlemen and best scholars of his age. The second is just going from school, and is intended for the church, that being his own choice. His eldest daughter is a woman grown, but we must not mention her age. A marriage was proposed to her the other day with a young fellow of a good estate, but she never would see him more than once: "For Doctor Harrison," says she, "told me he was illiterate, and I am sure he is ill-natured." The second girl is three years younger than her sister, and the others are yet children.
Amelia is still the finest woman in England of her age. Booth himself often avers she is as handsome as ever. Nothing can equal the serenity of their lives. Amelia declared to me the other day, that she did not remember to have seen her husband out of humour these ten years; and, upon my insinuating to her that he had the best of wives, she answered with a smile that she ought to be so, for that he had made her the happiest of women.
END OF VOL. II.