"No woman can bear any superiority in whatever thing she desires to excel in. I now began to hate all the admirers of my sister, to be uneasy at every commendation bestowed on her skill in music, and consequently to love Hebbers for the preference which he gave to mine.
"It was now that I began to survey the handsome person of Hebbers with pleasure. And here, Mr. Booth, I will betray to you the grand secret of our sex.—-Many women, I believe, do, with great innocence, and even with great indifference, converse with men of the finest persons; but this I am confident may be affirmed with truth, that, when once a woman comes to ask this question of herself, Is the man whom I like for some other reason, handsome? her fate and his too, very strongly depend on her answering in the affirmative.
"Hebbers no sooner perceived that he had made an impression on my heart, of which I am satisfied I gave him too undeniable tokens, than he affected on a sudden to shun me in the most apparent manner. He wore the most melancholy air in my presence, and, by his dejected looks and sighs, firmly persuaded me that there was some secret sorrow labouring in his bosom; nor will it be difficult for you to imagine to what cause I imputed it.
"Whilst I was wishing for his declaration of a passion in which I thought I could not be mistaken, and at the same time trembling whenever we met with the apprehension of this very declaration, the widow Carey came from London to make us a visit, intending to stay the whole summer at our house.
"Those who know Mrs. Carey will scarce think I do her an injury in saying she is far from being handsome; and yet she is as finished a coquette as if she had the highest beauty to support that character. But perhaps you have seen her; and if you have I am convinced you will readily subscribe to my opinion."
Booth answered he had not; and then she proceeded as in the following chapter.
The history of Miss Matthews continued.
"This young lady had not been three days with us before Hebbers grew so particular with her, that it was generally observed; and my poor father, who, I believe, loved the cornet as if he had been his son, began to jest on the occasion, as one who would not be displeased at throwing a good jointure into the arms of his friend.
"You will easily guess, sir, the disposition of my mind on this occasion; but I was not permitted to suffer long under it; for one day, when Hebbers was alone with me, he took an opportunity of expressing his abhorrence at the thoughts of marrying for interest, contrary to his inclinations. I was warm on the subject, and, I believe, went so far as to say that none but fools and villains did so. He replied, with a sigh, Yes, madam, but what would you think of a man whose heart is all the while bleeding for another woman, to whom he would willingly sacrifice the world; but, because he must sacrifice her interest as well as his own, never durst even give her a hint of that passion which was preying on his very vitals? 'Do you believe, Miss Fanny, there is such a wretch on earth?' I answered, with an assumed coldness, I did not believe there was. He then took me gently by the hand, and, with a look so tender that I cannot describe it, vowed he was himself that wretch. Then starting, as if conscious of an error committed, he cried with a faltering voice, 'What am I saying? Pardon me, Miss Fanny; since I beg only your pity, I never will ask for more.—' At these words, hearing my father coming up, I betrayed myself entirely, if, indeed, I had not done it before. I hastily withdrew my hand, crying, Hush! for heaven's sake, my father is just coming in; my blushes, my look, and my accent, telling him, I suppose, all which he wished to know.
"A few days now brought matters to an eclaircissement between us; the being undeceived in what had given me so much uneasiness gave me a pleasure too sweet to be resisted. To triumph over the widow, for whom I had in a very short time contracted a most inveterate hatred, was a pride not to be described. Hebbers appeared to me to be the cause of all this happiness. I doubted not but that he had the most disinterested passion for me, and thought him every way worthy of its return. I did return it, and accepted him as my lover.
"He declared the greatest apprehensions of my father's suspicion, though I am convinced these were causeless had his designs been honourable. To blind these, I consented that he should carry on sham addresses to the widow, who was now a constant jest between us; and he pretended from time to time to acquaint me faithfully with everything that past at his interviews with her; nor was this faithless woman wanting in her part of the deceit. She carried herself to me all the while with a shew of affection, and pretended to have the utmost friendship for me But such are the friendships of women!"
At this remark, Booth, though enough affected at some parts of the story, had great difficulty to refrain from laughter; but, by good luck, he escaped being perceived; and the lady went on without interruption.
"I am come now to a part of my narrative in which it is impossible to be particular without being tedious; for, as to the commerce between lovers, it is, I believe, much the same in all cases; and there is, perhaps, scarce a single phrase that hath not been repeated ten millions of times.
"One thing, however, as I strongly remarked it then, so I will repeat it to you now. In all our conversations, in moments when he fell into the warmest raptures, and exprest the greatest uneasiness at the delay of his joys, he seldom mentioned the word marriage; and never once solicited a day for that purpose. Indeed, women cannot be cautioned too much against such lovers; for though I have heard, and perhaps truly, of some of our sex, of a virtue so exalted, that it is proof against every temptation; yet the generality, I am afraid, are too much in the power of a man to whom they have owned an affection. What is called being upon a good footing is, perhaps, being upon a very dangerous one; and a woman who hath given her consent to marry can hardly be said to be safe till she is married.
"And now, sir, I hasten to the period of my ruin. We had a wedding in our family; my musical sister was married to a young fellow as musical as herself. Such a match, you may be sure, amongst other festivities, must have a ball. Oh! Mr. Booth, shall modesty forbid me to remark to you what past on that occasion? But why do I mention modesty, who have no pretensions to it? Everything was said and practised on that occasion, as if the purpose had been to inflame the mind of every woman present. That effect, I freely own to you, it had with me. Music, dancing, wine, and the most luscious conversation, in which my poor dear father innocently joined, raised ideas in me of which I shall for ever repent; and I wished (why should I deny it?) that it had been my wedding instead of my sister's.
"The villain Hebbers danced with me that night, and he lost no opportunity of improving the occasion. In short, the dreadful evening came. My father, though it was a very unusual thing with him, grew intoxicated with liquor; most of the men were in the same condition; nay, I myself drank more than I was accustomed to, enough to inflame, though not to disorder. I lost my former bed-fellow, my sister, and— you may, I think, guess the rest—the villain found means to steal to my chamber, and I was undone.
"Two months I passed in this detested commerce, buying, even then, my guilty, half-tasted pleasures at too dear a rate, with continual horror and apprehension; but what have I paid since—what do I pay now, Mr. Booth? O may my fate be a warning to every woman to keep her innocence, to resist every temptation, since she is certain to repent of the foolish bargain. May it be a warning to her to deal with mankind with care and caution; to shun the least approaches of dishonour, and never to confide too much in the honesty of a man, nor in her own strength, where she has so much at stake; let her remember she walks on a precipice, and the bottomless pit is to receive her if she slips; nay, if she makes but one false step.
"I ask your pardon, Mr. Booth; I might have spared these exhortations, since no woman hears me; but you will not wonder at seeing me affected on this occasion."
Booth declared he was much more surprised at her being able so well to preserve her temper in recounting her story.
"O sir," answered she, "I am at length reconciled to my fate; and I can now die with pleasure, since I die revenged. I am not one of those mean wretches who can sit down and lament their misfortunes. If I ever shed tears, they are the tears of indignation.—But I will proceed.
"It was my fate now to solicit marriage; and I failed not to do it in the most earnest manner. He answered me at first with procrastinations, declaring, from time to time, he would mention it to my father; and still excusing himself for not doing it. At last he thought on an expedient to obtain a longer reprieve. This was by pretending that he should, in a very few weeks, be preferred to the command of a troop; and then, he said, he could with some confidence propose the match.
"In this delay I was persuaded to acquiesce, and was indeed pretty easy, for I had not yet the least mistrust of his honour; but what words can paint my sensations, when one morning he came into my room, with all the marks of dejection in his countenance, and, throwing an open letter on the table, said, 'There is news, madam, in that letter which I am unable to tell you; nor can it give you more concern than it hath given me.'
"This letter was from his captain, to acquaint him that the rout, as they call it, was arrived, and that they were to march within two days. And this, I am since convinced, was what he expected, instead of the preferment which had been made the pretence of delaying our marriage.
"The shock which I felt at reading this was inexpressible, occasioned indeed principally by the departure of a villain whom I loved. However, I soon acquired sufficient presence of mind to remember the main point; and I now insisted peremptorily on his making me immediately his wife, whatever might be the consequence.
"He seemed thunderstruck at this proposal, being, I suppose, destitute of any excuse: but I was too impatient to wait for an answer, and cried out with much eagerness, Sure you cannot hesitate a moment upon this matter—'Hesitate! madam!' replied he—'what you ask is impossible. Is this a time for me to mention a thing of this kind to your father?'—My eyes were now opened all at once—I fell into a rage little short of madness. Tell not me, I cried, of impossibilities, nor times, nor of my father—-my honour, my reputation, my all are at stake.—I will have no excuse, no delay—make me your wife this instant, or I will proclaim you over the face of the whole earth for the greatest of villains. He answered, with a kind of sneer, 'What will you proclaim, madam?—whose honour will you injure?' My tongue faltered when I offered to reply, and I fell into a violent agony, which ended in a fit; nor do I remember anything more that past till I found myself in the arms of my poor affrighted father.
"O, Mr. Booth, what was then my situation! I tremble even now from the reflection.—I must stop a moment. I can go no farther." Booth attempted all in his power to soothe her; and she soon recovered her powers, and proceeded in her story.
In which Miss Matthews concludes her relation.
Before I had recovered my senses I had sufficiently betrayed myself to the best of men, who, instead of upbraiding me, or exerting any anger, endeavoured to comfort me all he could with assurances that all should yet be well. This goodness of his affected me with inexpressible sensations; I prostrated myself before him, embraced and kissed his knees, and almost dissolved in tears, and a degree of tenderness hardly to be conceived—-But I am running into too minute descriptions.
"Hebbers, seeing me in a fit, had left me, and sent one of the servants to take care of me. He then ran away like a thief from the house, without taking his leave of my father, or once thanking him for all his civilities. He did not stop at his quarters, but made directly to London, apprehensive, I believe, either of my father or brother's resentment; for I am convinced he is a coward. Indeed his fear of my brother was utterly groundless; for I believe he would rather have thanked any man who had destroyed me; and I am sure I am not in the least behindhand with him in good wishes.
"All his inveteracy to me had, however, no effect on my father, at least at that time; for, though the good man took sufficient occasions to reprimand me for my past offence, he could not be brought to abandon me. A treaty of marriage was now set on foot, in which my father himself offered me to Hebbers, with a fortune superior to that which had been given with my sister; nor could all my brother's remonstrances against it, as an act of the highest injustice, avail.
"Hebbers entered into the treaty, though not with much warmth. He had even the assurance to make additional demands on my father, which being complied with, everything was concluded, and the villain once more received into the house. He soon found means to obtain my forgiveness of his former behaviour; indeed, he convinced me, so foolishly blind is female love, that he had never been to blame.
"When everything was ready for our nuptials, and the day of the ceremony was to be appointed, in the midst of my happiness I received a letter from an unknown hand, acquainting me (guess, Mr. Booth, how I was shocked at receiving it) that Mr. Hebbers was already married to a woman in a distant part of the kingdom.
"I will not tire you with all that past at our next interview. I communicated the letter to Hebbers, who, after some little hesitation, owned the fact, and not only owned it, but had the address to improve it to his own advantage, to make it the means of satisfying me concerning all his former delays; which, to say the truth, I was not so much displeased at imputing to any degree of villany, as I should have been to impute it to the want of a sufficient warmth of affection, and though the disappointment of all my hopes, at the very instant of their expected fruition, threw me into the most violent disorders; yet, when I came a little to myself, he had no great difficulty to persuade me that in every instance, with regard to me, Hebbers had acted from no other motive than from the most ardent and ungovernable love. And there is, I believe, no crime which a woman will not forgive, when she can derive it from that fountain. In short, I forgave him all, and am willing to persuade myself I am not weaker than the rest of my sex. Indeed, Mr. Booth, he hath a bewitching tongue, and is master of an address that no woman could resist. I do assure you the charms of his person are his least perfection, at least in my eye."
Here Booth smiled, but happily without her perceiving it.
"A fresh difficulty (continued she) now arose. This was to excuse the delay of the ceremony to my father, who every day very earnestly urged it. This made me so very uneasy, that I at last listened to a proposal, which, if any one in the days of my innocence, or even a few days before, had assured me I could have submitted to have thought of, I should have treated the supposition with the highest contempt and indignation; nay, I scarce reflect on it now with more horror than astonishment. In short, I agreed to run away with him—to leave my father, my reputation, everything which was or ought to have been dear to me, and to live with this villain as a mistress, since I could not be his wife.
"Was not this an obligation of the highest and tenderest kind, and had I not reason to expect every return in the man's power on whom I had conferred it? "I will make short of the remainder of my story, for what is there of a woman worth relating, after what I have told you?
"Above a year I lived with this man in an obscure court in London, during which time I had a child by him, whom Heaven, I thank it, hath been pleased to take to itself.
"During many months he behaved to me with all the apparent tenderness and even fondness imaginable; but, alas! how poor was my enjoyment of this compared to what it would have been in another situation? When he was present, life was barely tolerable: but, when he was absent, nothing could equal the misery I endured. I past my hours almost entirely alone; for no company but what I despised, would consort with me. Abroad I scarce ever went, lest I should meet any of my former acquaintance; for their sight would have plunged a thousand daggers in my soul. My only diversion was going very seldom to a play, where I hid myself in the gallery, with a daughter of the woman of the house. A girl, indeed, of good sense and many good qualities; but how much beneath me was it to be the companion of a creature so low! O heavens! when I have seen my equals glittering in a side-box, how have the thoughts of my lost honour torn my soul!"
"Pardon me, dear madam," cries Booth, "for interrupting you; but I am under the utmost anxiety to know what became of your poor father, for whom I have so great a respect, and who, I am convinced, must so bitterly feel your loss."
"O Mr. Booth," answered she, "he was scarce ever out of my thoughts. His dear image still obtruded itself in my mind, and I believe would have broken my heart, had I not taken a very preposterous way to ease myself. I am, indeed, almost ashamed to tell you; but necessity put it in my head.—You will think the matter too trifling to have been remembered, and so it surely was; nor should I have remembered it on any other occasion. You must know then, sir, that my brother was always my inveterate enemy and altogether as fond of my sister.—He once prevailed with my father to let him take my sister with him in the chariot, and by that means I was disappointed of going to a ball which I had set my heart on. The disappointment, I assure you, was great at the time; but I had long since forgotten it. I must have been a very bad woman if I had not, for it was the only thing in which I can remember that my father ever disobliged me. However, I now revived this in my mind, which I artificially worked up into so high an injury, that I assure you it afforded me no little comfort. When any tender idea intruded into my bosom, I immediately raised this fantom of an injury in my imagination, and it considerably lessened the fury of that sorrow which I should have otherwise felt for the loss of so good a father, who died within a few months of my departure from him.
"And now, sir, to draw to a conclusion. One night, as I was in the gallery at Drury-lane playhouse, I saw below me in a side-box (she was once below me in every place), that widow whom I mentioned to you before. I had scarce cast my eyes on this woman before I was so shocked with the sight that it almost deprived me of my senses; for the villain Hebbers came presently in and seated himself behind her.
"He had been almost a month from me, and I believed him to be at his quarters in Yorkshire. Guess what were my sensations when I beheld him sitting by that base woman, and talking to her with the utmost familiarity. I could not long endure this sight, and having acquainted my companion that I was taken suddenly ill, I forced her to go home with me at the end of the second act.
"After a restless and sleepless night, when I rose the next morning I had the comfort to receive a visit from the woman of the house, who, after a very short introduction, asked me when I had heard from the captain, and when I expected to see him? I had not strength or spirits to make her any answer, and she proceeded thus:—'Indeed I did not think the captain would have used me so. My husband was an officer of the army as well as himself; and if a body is a little low in the world, I am sure that is no reason for folks to trample on a body. I defy the world to say as I ever was guilty of an ill thing.' For heaven's sake, madam, says I, what do you mean? 'Mean?' cries she; 'I am sure, if I had not thought you had been Captain Hebbers' lady, his lawful lady too, you should never have set footing in my house. I would have Captain Hebbers know, that though I am reduced to let lodgings, I never have entertained any but persons of character.'—In this manner, sir, she ran on, saying many shocking things not worth repeating, till my anger at last got the better of my patience as well as my sorrow, and I pushed her out of the room.
"She had not been long gone before her daughter came to me, and, after many expressions of tenderness and pity, acquainted me that her mother had just found out, by means of the captain's servant, that the captain was married to another lady; 'which, if you did not know before, madam,' said she, 'I am sorry to be the messenger of such ill news.'
"Think, Mr. Booth, what I must have endured to see myself humbled before such a creature as this, the daughter of a woman who lets lodgings! However, having recollected myself a little, I thought it would be in vain to deny anything; so, knowing this to be one of the best-natured and most sensible girls in the world, I resolved to tell her my whole story, and for the future to make her my confidante. I answered her, therefore, with a good deal of assurance, that she need not regret telling me this piece of ill news, for I had known it before I came to her house.
"'Pardon me, madam,' replied the girl, 'you cannot possibly have known it so long, for he hath not been married above a week; last night was the first time of his appearing in public with his wife at the play. Indeed, I knew very well the cause of your uneasiness there; but would not mention—-'
"His wife at the play? answered I eagerly. What wife? whom do you mean?
"'I mean the widow Carey, madam,' replied she, 'to whom the captain was married a few days since. His servant was here last night to pay for your lodging, and he told it my mother.'
"I know not what answer I made, or whether I made any. I presently fell dead on the floor, and it was with great difficulty I was brought back to life by the poor girl, for neither the mother nor the maid of the house would lend me any assistance, both seeming to regard me rather as a monster than a woman.
"Scarce had I recovered the use of my senses when I received a letter from the villain, declaring he had not assurance to see my face, and very kindly advising me to endeavour to reconcile myself to my family, concluding with an offer, in case I did not succeed, to allow me twenty pounds a-year to support me in some remote part of the kingdom.
"I need not mention my indignation at these proposals. In the highest agony of rage, I went in a chair to the detested house, where I easily got access to the wretch I had devoted to destruction, whom I no sooner found within my reach than I plunged a drawn penknife, which I had prepared in my pocket for the purpose, into his accursed heart. For this fact I was immediately seized and soon after committed hither; and for this fact I am ready to die, and shall with pleasure receive the sentence of the law.
"Thus, sir," said she, "I have related to you my unhappy story, and if I have tired your patience, by dwelling too long on those parts which affected me the most, I ask your pardon."
Booth made a proper speech on this occasion, and, having exprest much concern at her present situation, concluded that he hoped her sentence would be milder than she seemed to expect.
Her reply to this was full of so much bitterness and indignation, that we do not think proper to record the speech at length, in which having vented her passion, she all at once put on a serene countenance, and with an air of great complacency said, "Well, Mr. Booth, I think I have now a right to satisfy my curiosity at the expense of your breath. I may say it is not altogether a vain curiosity, for perhaps I have had inclination enough to interest myself in whatever concerns you; but no matter for that: those days (added she with a sigh) are now over."
Booth, who was extremely good-natured and well-bred, told her that she should not command him twice whatever was in his power; and then, after the usual apology, was going to begin his history, when the keeper arrived, and acquainted the lady that dinner was ready, at the same time saying, "I suppose, madam, as the gentleman is an acquaintance of yours, he must dine with us too."
Miss Matthews told the keeper that she had only one word to mention in private to the gentleman, and that then they would both attend him. She then pulled her purse from her pocket, in which were upwards of twenty guineas, being the remainder of the money for which she had sold a gold repeating watch, her father's present, with some other trinkets, and desired Mr. Booth to take what he should have occasion for, saying, "You know, I believe, dear Will, I never valued money; and now I am sure I shall have very little use for it." Booth, with much difficulty, accepted of two guineas, and then they both together attended the keeper.
Table-talk, consisting of a facetious discourse that passed in the prison.
There were assembled at the table the governor of these (not improperly called infernal) regions; the lieutenant-governor, vulgarly named the first turnkey; Miss Matthews, Mr. Booth, Mr. Robinson the gambler, several other prisoners of both sexes, and one Murphy, an attorney.
The governor took the first opportunity to bring the affair of Miss Matthews upon the carpet, and then, turning to Murphy, he said, "It is very lucky this gentleman happens to be present; I do assure you, madam, your cause cannot be in abler hands. He is, I believe, the best man in England at a defence; I have known him often succeed against the most positive evidence."
"Fy, sir," answered Murphy; "you know I hate all this; but, if the lady will trust me with her cause, I will do the best in my power. Come, madam, do not be discouraged; a bit of manslaughter and cold iron, I hope, will be the worst: or perhaps we may come off better with a slice of chance-medley, or se defendendo"
"I am very ignorant of the law, sir," cries the lady.
"Yes, madam," answered Murphy; "it can't be expected you should understand it. There are very few of us who profess it that understand the whole, nor is it necessary we should. There is a great deal of rubbish of little use, about indictments, and abatements, and bars, and ejectments, and trovers, and such stuff, with which people cram their heads to little purpose. The chapter of evidence is the main business; that is the sheet-anchor; that is the rudder, which brings the vessel safe in portum. Evidence is, indeed, the whole, the summa totidis, for de non apparentibus et non insistentibus eandem est ratio."
"If you address yourself to me, sir," said the lady, "you are much too learned, I assure you, for my understanding."
"Tace, madam," answered Murphy, "is Latin for a candle: I commend your prudence. I shall know the particulars of your case when we are alone."
"I hope the lady," said Robinson, "hath no suspicion of any person here. I hope we are all persons of honour at this table."
"D—n my eyes!" answered a well-dressed woman, "I can answer for myself and the other ladies; though I never saw the lady in my life, she need not be shy of us, d—n my eyes! I scorn to rap [Footnote: A cant word, meaning to swear, or rather to perjure yourself] against any lady."
"D—n me, madam!" cried another female, "I honour what you have done. I once put a knife into a cull myself—so my service to you, madam, and I wish you may come off with se diffidendo with all my heart."
"I beg, good woman," said Miss Matthews, "you would talk on some other subject, and give yourself no concern about my affairs."
"You see, ladies," cried Murphy, "the gentle-woman doth not care to talk on this matter before company; so pray do not press her."
"Nay, I value the lady's acquaintance no more than she values mine," cries the first woman who spoke. "I have kept as good company as the lady, I believe, every day in the week. Good woman! I don't use to be so treated. If the lady says such another word to me, d—n me, I will darken her daylights. Marry, come up! Good woman!—the lady's a whore as well as myself! and, though I am sent hither to mill doll, d—n my eyes, I have money enough to buy it off as well as the lady herself."
Action might perhaps soon have ensued this speech, had not the keeper interposed his authority, and put an end to any further dispute. Soon after which, the company broke up, and none but himself, Mr. Murphy, Captain Booth, and Miss Matthews, remained together.
Miss Matthews then, at the entreaty of the keeper, began to open her case to Mr. Murphy, whom she admitted to be her solicitor, though she still declared she was indifferent as to the event of the trial.
Mr. Murphy, having heard all the particulars with which the reader is already acquainted (as far as related to the murder), shook his head and said, "There is but one circumstance, madam, which I wish was out of the case; and that we must put out of it; I mean the carrying the penknife drawn into the room with you; for that seems to imply malice prepensive, as we call it in the law: this circumstance, therefore, must not appear against you; and, if the servant who was in the room observed this, he must be bought off at all hazards. All here you say are friends; therefore I tell you openly, you must furnish me with money sufficient for this purpose. Malice is all we have to guard against."
"I would not presume, sir," cries Booth, "to inform you in the law; but I have heard, in case of stabbing, a man may be indicted upon the statute; and it is capital, though no malice appears."
"You say true, sir," answered Murphy; "a man may be indicted contra formam statutis; and that method, I allow you, requires no malice. I presume you are a lawyer, sir?"
"No, indeed, sir," answered Booth, "I know nothing of the law."
"Then, sir, I will tell you—If a man be indicted contra formam tatutis, as we say, no malice is necessary, because the form of the statute makes malice; and then what we have to guard against is having struck the first blow. Pox on't, it is unlucky this was done in a room: if it had been in the street we could have had five or six witnesses to have proved the first blow, cheaper than, I am afraid, we shall get this one; for when a man knows, from the unhappy circumstances of the case, that you can procure no other witness but himself, he is always dear. It is so in all other ways of business. I am very implicit, you see; but we are all among friends. The safest way is to furnish me with money enough to offer him a good round sum at once; and I think (it is for your good I speak) fifty pounds is the least than can be offered him. I do assure you I would offer him no less was it my own case."
"And do you think, sir," said she, "that I would save my life at the expense of hiring another to perjure himself?"
"Ay, surely do I," cries Murphy; "for where is the fault, admitting there is some fault in perjury, as you call it? and, to be sure, it is such a matter as every man would rather wish to avoid than not: and yet, as it may be managed, there is not so much as some people are apt to imagine in it; for he need not kiss the book, and then pray where's the perjury? but if the crier is sharper than ordinary, what is it he kisses? is it anything but a bit of calf's-skin? I am sure a man must be a very bad Christian himself who would not do so much as that to save the life of any Christian whatever, much more of so pretty a lady. Indeed, madam, if we can make out but a tolerable case, so much beauty will go a great way with the judge and the jury too."
The latter part of this speech, notwithstanding the mouth it came from, caused Miss Matthews to suppress much of the indignation which began to arise at the former; and she answered with a smile, "Sir, you are a great casuist in these matters; but we need argue no longer concerning them; for, if fifty pounds would save my life, I assure you I could not command that sum. The little money I have in my pocket is all I can call my own; and I apprehend, in the situation I am in, I shall have very little of that to spare."
"Come, come, madam," cries Murphy, "life is sweet, let me tell you, and never sweeter than when we are near losing it. I have known many a man very brave and undaunted at his first commitment, who, when business began to thicken a little upon him, hath changed his note. It is no time to be saving in your condition."
The keeper, who, after the liberality of Miss Matthews, and on seeing a purse of guineas in her hand, had conceived a great opinion of her wealth, no sooner heard that the sum which he had in intention intirely confiscated for his own use was attempted to be broke in upon, thought it high time to be upon his guard. "To be sure," cries he, "Mr. Murphy, life is sweet, as you say, that must be acknowledged; to be sure, life is sweet; but, sweet as it is, no persons can advance more than they are worth to save it. And indeed, if the lady can command no more money than that little she mentions, she is to be commended for her unwillingness to part with any of it; for, to be sure, as she says, she will want every farthing of that to live like a gentlewoman till she comes to her trial. And, to be sure, as sweet as life is, people ought to take care to be able to live sweetly while they do live; besides, I cannot help saying the lady shews herself to be what she is, by her abhorrence of perjury, which is certainly a very dreadful crime. And, though the not kissing the book doth, as you say, make a great deal of difference; and, if a man had a great while to live and repent, perhaps he might swallow it well enough; yet, when people comes to be near their end (as who can venture to foretel what will be the lady's case?) they ought to take care not to overburthen their conscience. I hope the lady's case will not be found murder; for I am sure I always wish well to all my prisoners who shew themselves to be gentlemen or gentlewomen; yet one should always fear the worst"
"Indeed, sir, you speak like an oracle," answered the lady; "and one subornation of perjury would sit heavier on my conscience than twenty such murders as I am guilty of."
"Nay, to be sure, madam," answered the keeper, "nobody can pretend to tell what provocation you must have had; and certainly it can never be imagined that a lady who behaves herself so handsomely as you have done ever since you have been under my keys should be guilty of killing a man without being very highly provoked to do it."
Mr. Murphy was, I believe, going to answer when he was called out of the room; after which nothing passed between the remaining persons worth relating, till Booth and the lady retired back again into the lady's apartment.
Here they fell immediately to commenting on the foregoing discourse; but, as their comments were, I believe, the same with what most readers have made on the same occasion, we shall omit them. At last, Miss Matthews reminding her companion of his promise of relating to her what had befallen him since the interruption of their former acquaintance, he began as is written in the next book of this history.
In which Captain Booth begins to relate his history.
The tea-table being removed, and Mr. Booth and the lady left alone, he proceeded as follows:
"Since you desire, madam, to know the particulars of my courtship to that best and dearest of women whom I afterwards married, I will endeavour to recollect them as well as I can, at least all those incidents which are most worth relating to you.
"If the vulgar opinion of the fatality in marriage had ever any foundation, it surely appeared in my marriage with my Amelia. I knew her in the first dawn of her beauty; and, I believe, madam, she had as much as ever fell to the share of a woman; but, though I always admired her, it was long without any spark of love. Perhaps the general admiration which at that time pursued her, the respect paid her by persons of the highest rank, and the numberless addresses which were made her by men of great fortune, prevented my aspiring at the possession of those charms which seemed so absolutely out of my reach. However it was, I assure you the accident which deprived her of the admiration of others made the first great impression on my heart in her favour. The injury done to her beauty by the overturning of a chaise, by which, as you may well remember, her lovely nose was beat all to pieces, gave me an assurance that the woman who had been so much adored for the charms of her person deserved a much higher adoration to be paid to her mind; for that she was in the latter respect infinitely more superior to the rest of her sex than she had ever been in the former."
"I admire your taste extremely," cried the lady; "I remember perfectly well the great heroism with which your Amelia bore that misfortune."
"Good heavens! madam," answered he; "what a magnanimity of mind did her behaviour demonstrate! If the world have extolled the firmness of soul in a man who can support the loss of fortune; of a general who can be composed after the loss of a victory; or of a king who can be contented with the loss of a crown; with what astonishment ought we to behold, with what praises to honour, a young lady, who can with patience and resignation submit to the loss of exquisite beauty, in other words to the loss of fortune, power, glory, everything which human nature is apt to court and rejoice in! what must be the mind which can bear to be deprived of all these in a moment, and by an unfortunate trifling accident; which could support all this, together with the most exquisite torments of body, and with dignity, with resignation, without complaining, almost without a tear, undergo the most painful and dreadful operations of surgery in such a situation!" Here he stopt, and a torrent of tears gushed from his eyes; such tears are apt to flow from a truly noble heart at the hearing of anything surprisingly great and glorious. As soon as he was able he again proceeded thus:
"Would you think, Miss Matthews, that the misfortune of my Amelia was capable of any aggravation? I assure you, she hath often told me it was aggravated with a circumstance which outweighed all the other ingredients. This was the cruel insults she received from some of her most intimate acquaintance, several of whom, after many distortions and grimaces, have turned their heads aside, unable to support their secret triumph, and burst into a loud laugh in her hearing."
"Good heavens!" cried Miss Matthews; "what detestable actions will this contemptible passion of envy prevail on our sex to commit!"
"An occasion of this kind, as she hath since told me, made the first impression on her gentle heart in my favour. I was one day in company with several young ladies, or rather young devils, where poor Amelia's accident was the subject of much mirth and pleasantry. One of these said she hoped miss would not hold her head so high for the future. Another answered, 'I do not know, madam, what she may do with her head, but I am convinced she will never more turn up her nose at her betters.' Another cried, 'What a very proper match might now be made between Amelia and a certain captain,' who had unfortunately received an injury in the same part, though from no shameful cause. Many other sarcasms were thrown out, very unworthy to be repeated. I was hurt with perceiving so much malice in human shape, and cried out very bluntly, Indeed, ladies, you need not express such satisfaction at poor Miss Emily's accident; for she will still be the handsomest woman in England. This speech of mine was afterwards variously repeated, by some to my honour, and by others represented in a contrary light; indeed, it was often reported to be much ruder than it was. However, it at length reached Amelia's ears. She said she was very much obliged to me, since I could have so much compassion for her as to be rude to a lady on her account.
"About a month after the accident, when Amelia began to see company in a mask, I had the honour to drink tea with her. We were alone together, and I begged her to indulge my curiosity by showing me her face. She answered in a most obliging manner, 'Perhaps, Mr. Booth, you will as little know me when my mask is off as when it is on;' and at the same instant unmasked.—The surgeon's skill was the least I considered. A thousand tender ideas rushed all at once on my mind. I was unable to contain myself, and, eagerly kissing her hand, I cried— Upon my soul, madam, you never appeared to me so lovely as at this instant. Nothing more remarkable passed at this visit; but I sincerely believe we were neither of us hereafter indifferent to each other.
"Many months, however, passed after this, before I ever thought seriously of making her my wife. Not that I wanted sufficient love for Amelia. Indeed it arose from the vast affection I bore her. I considered my own as a desperate fortune, hers as entirely dependent on her mother, who was a woman, you know, of violent passions, and very unlikely to consent to a match so highly contrary to the interest of her daughter. The more I loved Amelia, the more firmly I resolved within myself never to propose love to her seriously. Such a dupe was my understanding to my heart, and so foolishly did I imagine I could be master of a flame to which I was every day adding fuel.
"O, Miss Matthews! we have heard of men entirely masters of their passions, and of hearts which can carry this fire in them, and conceal it at their pleasure. Perhaps there may be such: but, if there are, those hearts may be compared, I believe, to damps, in which it is more difficult to keep fire alive than to prevent its blazing: in mine it was placed in the midst of combustible matter.
"After several visits, in which looks and sighs had been interchanged on both sides, but without the least mention of passion in private, one day the discourse between us when alone happened to turn on love; I say happened, for I protest it was not designed on my side, and I am as firmly convinced not on hers. I was now no longer master of myself; I declared myself the most wretched of all martyrs to this tender passion; that I had long concealed it from its object. At length, after mentioning many particulars, suppressing, however, those which must have necessarily brought it home to Amelia, I concluded with begging her to be the confidante of my amour, and to give me her advice on that occasion.
"Amelia (O, I shall never forget the dear perturbation!) appeared all confusion at this instant. She trembled, turned pale, and discovered how well she understood me, by a thousand more symptoms than I could take notice of, in a state of mind so very little different from her own. At last, with faltering accents, she said I had made a very ill choice of a counsellor in a matter in which she was so ignorant.— Adding, at last, 'I believe, Mr. Booth, you gentlemen want very little advice in these affairs, which you all understand better than we do.'
"I will relate no more of our conversation at present; indeed I am afraid I tire you with too many particulars."
"O, no!" answered she; "I should be glad to hear every step of an amour which had so tender a beginning. Tell me everything you said or did, if you can remember it."
He then proceeded, and so will we in the next chapter.
Mr. Booth continues his story. In this chapter there are some passages that may serve as a kind of touchstone by which a young lady may examine the heart of her lover. I would advise, therefore, that every lover be obliged to read it over in the presence of his mistress, and that she carefully watch his emotions while he is reading.
"I was under the utmost concern," cries Booth, "when I retired from my visit, and had reflected coolly on what I had said. I now saw plainly that I had made downright love to Amelia; and I feared, such was my vanity, that I had already gone too far, and been too successful. Feared! do I say? could I fear what I hoped? how shall I describe the anxiety of my mind?"
"You need give yourself no great pain," cried Miss Matthews, "to describe what I can so easily guess. To be honest with you, Mr. Booth, I do not agree with your lady's opinion that the men have a superior understanding in the matters of love. Men are often blind to the passions of women: but every woman is as quick-sighted as a hawk on these occasions; nor is there one article in the whole science which is not understood by all our sex."
"However, madam," said Mr. Booth, "I now undertook to deceive Amelia. I abstained three days from seeing her; to say the truth, I endeavoured to work myself up to a resolution of leaving her for ever: but when I could not so far subdue my passion—-But why do I talk nonsense of subduing passion?—I should say, when no other passion could surmount my love, I returned to visit her; and now I attempted the strangest project which ever entered into the silly head of a lover. This was to persuade Amelia that I was really in love in another place, and had literally expressed my meaning when I asked her advice and desired her to be my confidante.
"I therefore forged a meeting to have been between me and my imaginary mistress since I had last seen Amelia, and related the particulars, as well as I could invent them, which had passed at our conversation.
"Poor Amelia presently swallowed this bait; and, as she hath told me since, absolutely believed me to be in earnest. Poor dear love! how should the sincerest of hearts have any idea of deceit? for, with all her simplicity, I assure you she is the most sensible woman in the world."
"It is highly generous and good in you," said Miss Matthews, with a sly sneer, "to impute to honesty what others would, perhaps, call credulity."
"I protest, madam," answered he, "I do her no more than justice. A good heart will at all times betray the best head in the world.—- Well, madam, my angel was now, if possible, more confused than before. She looked so silly, you can hardly believe it."
"Yes, yes, I can," answered the lady, with a laugh, "I can believe it.—Well, well, go on."—"After some hesitation," cried he, "my Amelia said faintly to me, 'Mr. Booth, you use me very ill; you desire me to be your confidante, and conceal from me the name of your mistress.'
"Is it possible then, madam," answered I, "that you cannot guess her, when I tell you she is one of your acquaintance, and lives in this town?"
"'My acquaintance!' said she: 'La! Mr. Booth—In this town! I—I—I thought I could have guessed for once; but I have an ill talent that way—I will never attempt to guess anything again.' Indeed I do her an injury when I pretend to represent her manner. Her manner, look, voice, everything was inimitable; such sweetness, softness, innocence, modesty!—Upon my soul, if ever man could boast of his resolution, I think I might now, that I abstained from falling prostrate at her feet, and adoring her. However, I triumphed; pride, I believe, triumphed, or perhaps love got the better of love. We once more parted, and I promised, the next time I saw her, to reveal the name of my mistress.
"I now had, I thought, gained a complete victory over myself; and no small compliments did I pay to my own resolution. In short, I triumphed as cowards and niggards do when they flatter themselves with having given some supposed instance of courage or generosity; and my triumph lasted as long; that is to say, till my ascendant passion had a proper opportunity of displaying itself in its true and natural colours.
"Having hitherto succeeded so well in my own opinion, and obtained this mighty self-conquest, I now entertained a design of exerting the most romantic generosity, and of curing that unhappy passion which I perceived I had raised in Amelia.
"Among the ladies who had expressed the greatest satisfaction at my Amelia's misfortune, Miss Osborne had distinguished herself in a very eminent degree; she was, indeed, the next in beauty to my angel, nay, she had disputed the preference, and had some among her admirers who were blind enough to give it in her favour."
"Well," cries the lady, "I will allow you to call them blind; but Miss Osborne was a charming girl."
"She certainly was handsome," answered he, "and a very considerable fortune; so I thought my Amelia would have little difficulty in believing me when I fixed on her as my mistress. And I concluded that my thus placing my affections on her known enemy would be the surest method of eradicating every tender idea with which I had been ever honoured by Amelia.
"Well, then, to Amelia I went; she received me with more than usual coldness and reserve; in which, to confess the truth, there appeared to me more of anger than indifference, and more of dejection than of either. After some short introduction, I revived the discourse of my amour, and presently mentioned Miss Osborne as the lady whose name I had concealed; adding, that the true reason why I did not mention her before was, that I apprehended there was some little distance between them, which I hoped to have the happiness of accommodating.
"Amelia answered with much gravity, 'If you know, sir, that there is any distance between us, I suppose you know the reason of that distance; and then, I think, I could not have expected to be affronted by her name. I would not have you think, Mr. Booth, that I hate Miss Osborne. No! Heaven is my witness, I despise her too much.—Indeed, when I reflect how much I loved the woman who hath treated me so cruelly, I own it gives me pain—when I lay, as I then imagined, and as all about me believed, on my deathbed, in all the agonies of pain and misery, to become the object of laughter to my dearest friend.—O, Mr. Booth, it is a cruel reflection! and could I after this have expected from you—but why not from you, to whom I am a person entirely indifferent, if such a friend could treat me so barbarously?'
"During the greatest part of this speech the tears streamed from her bright eyes. I could endure it no longer. I caught up the word indifferent, and repeated it, saying, Do you think then, madam, that Miss Emily is indifferent to me?
"'Yes, surely, I do,' answered she: 'I know I am; indeed, why should I not be indifferent to you?'
"Have my eyes," said I, "then declared nothing?"
"'O! there is no need of your eyes' answered she; 'your tongue hath declared that you have singled out of all womankind my greatest, I will say, my basest enemy. I own I once thought that character would have been no recommendation to you;—but why did I think so? I was born to deceive myself.'
"I then fell on my knees before her; and, forcing her hand, cried out, O, my Amelia! I can bear no longer. You are the only mistress of my affections; you are the deity I adore. In this stile I ran on for above two or three minutes, what it is impossible to repeat, till a torrent of contending passions, together with the surprize, overpowered her gentle spirits, and she fainted away in my arms.
"To describe my sensation till she returned to herself is not in my power."—"You need not," cried Miss Matthews.—"Oh, happy Amelia! why had I not been blest with such a passion?"—"I am convinced, madam," continued he, "you cannot expect all the particulars of the tender scene which ensued. I was not enough in my senses to remember it all. Let it suffice to say, that that behaviour with which Amelia, while ignorant of its motive, had been so much displeased, when she became sensible of that motive, proved the strongest recommendation to her favour, and she was pleased to call it generous."
"Generous!" repeated the lady, "and so it was, almost beyond the reach of humanity. I question whether you ever had an equal."
Perhaps the critical reader may have the same doubt with Miss Matthews; and lest he should, we will here make a gap in our history, to give him an opportunity of accurately considering whether this conduct of Mr. Booth was natural or no; and consequently, whether we have, in this place, maintained or deviated from that strict adherence to universal truth which we profess above all other historians.
The narrative continued. More of the touchstone.
Booth made a proper acknowledgment of Miss Matthew's civility, and then renewed his story. "We were upon the footing of lovers; and Amelia threw off her reserve more and more, till at length I found all that return of my affection which the tenderest lover can require.
"My situation would now have been a paradise, had not my happiness been interrupted with the same reflections I have already mentioned; had I not, in short, concluded, that I must derive all my joys from the almost certain ruin of that dear creature to whom I should owe them.
"This thought haunted me night and day, till I at last grew unable to support it: I therefore resolved in the strongest manner, to lay it before Amelia.
"One evening then, after the highest professions of the most disinterested love, in which Heaven knows my sincerity, I took an occasion to speak to Amelia in the following manner:—
"Too true it is, I am afraid, my dearest creature, that the highest human happiness is imperfect. How rich would be my cup, was it not for one poisonous drop which embitters the whole! O, Amelia! what must be the consequence of my ever having the honour to call you mine!—You know my situation in life, and you know your own: I have nothing more than the poor provision of an ensign's commission to depend on; your sole dependence is on your mother; should any act of disobedience defeat your expectations, how wretched must your lot be with me! O, Amelia! how ghastly an object to my mind is the apprehension of your distress! Can I bear to reflect a moment on the certainty of your foregoing all the conveniences of life? on the possibility of your suffering all its most dreadful inconveniencies? what must be my misery, then, to see you in such a situation, and to upbraid myself with being the accursed cause of bringing you to it? Suppose too in such a season I should be summoned from you. Could I submit to see you encounter all the hazards, the fatigues of war, with me? you could not yourself, however willing, support them a single campaign. What then; must I leave you to starve alone, deprived of the tenderness of a husband, deprived too of the tenderness of the best of mothers, through my means? a woman most dear to me, for being the parent, the nurse, and the friend of my Amelia.—-But oh! my sweet creature, carry your thoughts a little further. Think of the tenderest consequences, the dearest pledges of our love. Can I bear to think of entailing beggary on the posterity of my Amelia? on our—-Oh, Heavens!—on our children!—On the other side, is it possible even to mention the word —I will not, must not, cannot, cannot part with you.—-What must we do, Amelia? It is now I sincerely ask your advice."
"'What advice can I give you,' said she, 'in such an alternative? Would to Heaven we had never met!'
"These words were accompanied with a sigh, and a look inexpressibly tender, the tears at the same time overflowing all her lovely cheeks. I was endeavouring to reply when I was interrupted by what soon put an end to the scene.
"Our amour had already been buzzed all over the town; and it came at last to the ears of Mrs. Harris: I had, indeed, observed of late a great alteration in that lady's behaviour towards me whenever I visited at the house; nor could I, for a long time before this evening, ever obtain a private interview with Amelia; and now, it seems, I owed it to her mother's intention of overhearing all that passed between us.
"At the period then above mentioned, Mrs. Harris burst from the closet where she had hid herself, and surprised her daughter, reclining on my bosom in all that tender sorrow I have just described. I will not attempt to paint the rage of the mother, or the daughter's confusion, or my own. 'Here are very fine doings, indeed,' cries Mrs. Harris: 'you have made a noble use, Amelia, of my indulgence, and the trust I reposed in you.—As for you, Mr. Booth, I will not accuse you; you have used my child as I ought to have expected; I may thank myself for what hath happened;' with much more of the same kind, before she would suffer me to speak; but at last I obtained a hearing, and offered to excuse my poor Amelia, who was ready to sink into the earth under the oppression of grief, by taking as much blame as I could on myself. Mrs. Harris answered, 'No, sir, I must say you are innocent in comparison of her; nay, I can say I have heard you use dissuasive arguments; and I promise you they are of weight. I have, I thank Heaven, one dutiful child, and I shall henceforth think her my only one.'—She then forced the poor, trembling, fainting Amelia out of the room; which when she had done, she began very coolly to reason with me on the folly, as well as iniquity, which I had been guilty of; and repeated to me almost every word I had before urged to her daughter. In fine, she at last obtained of me a promise that I would soon go to my regiment, and submit to any misery rather than that of being the ruin of Amelia.
"I now, for many days, endured the greatest torments which the human mind is, I believe, capable of feeling; and I can honestly say I tried all the means, and applied every argument which I could raise, to cure me of my love. And to make these the more effectual, I spent every night in walking backwards and forwards in the sight of Mrs. Harris's house, where I never failed to find some object or other which raised some tender idea of my lovely Amelia, and almost drove me to distraction."
"And don't you think, sir," said Miss Matthews, "you took a most preposterous method to cure yourself?"
"Alas, madam," answered he, "you cannot see it in a more absurd light than I do; but those know little of real love or grief who do not know how much we deceive ourselves when we pretend to aim at the cure of either. It is with these, as it is with some distempers of the body, nothing is in the least agreeable to us but what serves to heighten the disease.
"At the end of a fortnight, when I was driven almost to the highest degree of despair, and could contrive no method of conveying a letter to Amelia, how was I surprised when Mrs. Harris's servant brought me a card, with an invitation from the mother herself to drink tea that evening at her house!
"You will easily believe, madam, that I did not fail so agreeable an appointment: on my arrival I was introduced into a large company of men and women, Mrs. Harris and my Amelia being part of the company.
"Amelia seemed in my eyes to look more beautiful than ever, and behaved with all the gaiety imaginable. The old lady treated me with much civility, but the young lady took little notice of me, and addressed most of her discourse to another gentleman present. Indeed, she now and then gave me a look of no discouraging kind, and I observed her colour change more than once when her eyes met mine; circumstances, which, perhaps, ought to have afforded me sufficient comfort, but they could not allay the thousand doubts and fears with which I was alarmed, for my anxious thoughts suggested no less to me than that Amelia had made her peace with her mother at the price of abandoning me forever, and of giving her ear to some other lover. All my prudence now vanished at once; and I would that instant have gladly run away with Amelia, and have married her without the least consideration of any consequences.
"With such thoughts I had tormented myself for near two hours, till most of the company had taken their leave. This I was myself incapable of doing, nor do I know when I should have put an end to my visit, had not Dr Harrison taken me away almost by force, telling me in a whisper that he had something to say to me of great consequence.—You know the doctor, madam—"
"Very well, sir," answered Miss Matthews, "and one of the best men in the world he is, and an honour to the sacred order to which he belongs."
"You will judge," replied Booth, "by the sequel, whether I have reason to think him so."—He then proceeded as in the next chapter.
The story of Mr. Booth continued. In this chapter the reader will perceive a glimpse of the character of a very good divine, with some matters of a very tender kind.
"The doctor conducted me into his study, and I then, desiring me to sit down, began, as near as I can remember, in these words, or at least to this purpose:
"'You cannot imagine, young gentleman, that your love for Miss Emily is any secret in this place; I have known it some time, and have been, I assure you, very much your enemy in this affair.'
"I answered, that I was very much obliged to him.
"'Why, so you are,' replied he; 'and so, perhaps, you will think yourself when you know all.—I went about a fortnight ago to Mrs. Harris, to acquaint her with my apprehensions on her daughter's account; for, though the matter was much talked of, I thought it might possibly not have reached her ears. I will be very plain with you. I advised her to take all possible care of the young lady, and even to send her to some place, where she might be effectually kept out of your reach while you remained in the town.'
"And do you think, sir, said I, that this was acting a kind part by me? or do you expect that I should thank you on this occasion?
"'Young man,' answered he, 'I did not intend you any kindness, nor do I desire any of your thanks. My intention was to preserve a worthy lady from a young fellow of whom I had heard no good character, and whom I imagined to have a design of stealing a human creature for the sake of her fortune.'
"It was very kind of you, indeed, answered I, to entertain such an opinion of me.
"'Why, sir,' replied the doctor, 'it is the opinion which, I believe, most of you young gentlemen of the order of the rag deserve. I have known some instances, and have heard of more, where such young fellows have committed robbery under the name of marriage.'
"I was going to interrupt him with some anger when he desired me to have a little patience, and then informed me that he had visited Mrs. Harris with the above-mentioned design the evening after the discovery I have related; that Mrs. Harris, without waiting for his information, had recounted to him all which had happened the evening before; and, indeed, she must have an excellent memory, for I think she repeated every word I said, and added, that she had confined her daughter to her chamber, where she kept her a close prisoner, and had not seen her since.
"I cannot express, nor would modesty suffer me if I could, all that now past. The doctor took me by the hand and burst forth into the warmest commendations of the sense and generosity which he was pleased to say discovered themselves in my speech. You know, madam, his strong and singular way of expressing himself on all occasions, especially when he is affected with anything. 'Sir,' said he, 'if I knew half a dozen such instances in the army, the painter should put red liveries upon all the saints in my closet.'
"From this instant, the doctor told me, he had become my friend and zealous advocate with Mrs. Harris, on whom he had at last prevailed, though not without the greatest difficulty, to consent to my marrying Amelia, upon condition that I settled every penny which the mother should lay down, and that she would retain a certain sum in her hands which she would at any time deposit for my advancement in the army.
"You will, I hope, madam, conceive that I made no hesitation at these conditions, nor need I mention the joy which I felt on this occasion, or the acknowledgment I paid the doctor, who is, indeed, as you say, one of the best of men.
"The next morning I had permission to visit Amelia, who received me in such a manner, that I now concluded my happiness to be complete.
"Everything was now agreed on all sides, and lawyers employed to prepare the writings, when an unexpected cloud arose suddenly in our serene sky, and all our joys were obscured in a moment.
"When matters were, as I apprehended, drawing near a conclusion, I received an express, that a sister whom I tenderly loved was seized with a violent fever, and earnestly desired me to come to her. I immediately obeyed the summons, and, as it was then about two in the morning, without staying even to take leave of Amelia, for whom I left a short billet, acquainting her with the reason of my absence.
"The gentleman's house where my sister then was stood at fifty miles' distance, and, though I used the utmost expedition, the unmerciful distemper had, before my arrival, entirely deprived the poor girl of her senses, as it soon after did of her life.
"Not all the love I bore Amelia, nor the tumultuous delight with which the approaching hour of possessing her filled my heart, could, for a while, allay my grief at the loss of my beloved Nancy. Upon my soul, I cannot yet mention her name without tears. Never brother and sister had, I believe, a higher friendship for each other. Poor dear girl! whilst I sat by her in her light-head fits, she repeated scarce any other name but mine; and it plainly appeared that, when her dear reason was ravished away from her, it had left my image on her fancy, and that the last use she made of it was to think on me. 'Send for my dear Billy immediately,' she cried; 'I know he will come to me in a moment. Will nobody fetch him to me? pray don't kill me before I see him once more. You durst not use me so if he was here.'—Every accent still rings in my ears. Oh, heavens! to hear this, and at the same time to see the poor delirious creature deriving the greatest horrors from my sight, and mistaking me for a highwayman who had a little before robbed her. But I ask your pardon; the sensations I felt are to be known only from experience, and to you must appear dull and insipid. At last, she seemed for a moment to know me, and cried, 'O heavens! my dearest brother!' upon which she fell into immediate convulsions, and died away in my arms."
Here Mr. Booth stopped a moment, and wiped his eyes; and Miss Matthews, perhaps out of complaisance, wiped hers.
Containing strange revolutions of fortune
Booth proceeded thus:
"This loss, perhaps, madam, you will think had made me miserable enough; but Fortune did not think so; for, on the day when my Nancy was to be buried, a courier arrived from Dr Harrison, with a letter, in which the doctor acquainted me that he was just come from Mrs. Harris when he despatched the express, and earnestly desired me to return the very instant I received his letter, as I valued my Amelia. 'Though if the daughter,' added he, 'should take after her mother (as most of them do) it will be, perhaps, wiser in you to stay away.'
"I presently sent for the messenger into my room, and with much difficulty extorted from him that a great squire in his coach and six was come to Mrs. Harris's, and that the whole town said he was shortly to be married to Amelia.
"I now soon perceived how much superior my love for Amelia was to every other passion; poor Nancy's idea disappeared in a moment; I quitted the dear lifeless corpse, over which I had shed a thousand tears, left the care of her funeral to others, and posted, I may almost say flew, back to Amelia, and alighted at the doctor's house, as he had desired me in his letter.
"The good man presently acquainted me with what had happened in my absence. Mr. Winckworth had, it seems, arrived the very day of my departure, with a grand equipage, and, without delay, had made formal proposals to Mrs. Harris, offering to settle any part of his vast estate, in whatever manner she pleased, on Amelia. These proposals the old lady had, without any deliberation, accepted, and had insisted, in the most violent manner, on her daughter's compliance, which Amelia had as peremptorily refused to give; insisting, on her part, on the consent which her mother had before given to our marriage, in which she was heartily seconded by the doctor, who declared to her, as he now did to me, 'that we ought as much to be esteemed man and wife as if the ceremony had already past between us.'
"These remonstrances, the doctor told me, had worked no effect on Mrs. Harris, who still persisted in her avowed resolution of marrying her daughter to Winckworth, whom the doctor had likewise attacked, telling him that he was paying his addresses to another man's wife; but all to no purpose; the young gentleman was too much in love to hearken to any dissuasives.
"We now entered into a consultation what means to employ. The doctor earnestly protested against any violence to be offered to the person of Winckworth, which, I believe, I had rashly threatened; declaring that, if I made any attempt of that kind, he would for ever abandon my cause. I made him a solemn promise of forbearance. At last he determined to pay another visit to Mrs. Harris, and, if he found her obdurate, he said he thought himself at liberty to join us together without any further consent of the mother, which every parent, he said, had a right to refuse, but not retract when given, unless the party himself, by some conduct of his, gave a reason.
"The doctor having made his visit with no better success than before, the matter now debated was, how to get possession of Amelia by stratagem, for she was now a closer prisoner than ever; was her mother's bedfellow by night, and never out of her sight by day.
"While we were deliberating on this point a wine-merchant of the town came to visit the doctor, to inform him that he had just bottled off a hogshead of excellent old port, of which he offered to spare him a hamper, saying that he was that day to send in twelve dozen to Mrs. Harris.
"The doctor now smiled at a conceit which came into his head; and, taking me aside, asked me if I had love enough for the young lady to venture into the house in a hamper. I joyfully leapt at the proposal, to which the merchant, at the doctor's intercession, consented; for I believe, madam, you know the great authority which that worthy mart had over the whole town. The doctor, moreover, promised to procure a license, and to perform the office for us at his house, if I could find any means of conveying Amelia thither.
"In this hamper, then, I was carried to the house, and deposited in the entry, where I had not lain long before I was again removed and packed up in a cart in order to be sent five miles into the country; for I heard the orders given as I lay in the entry; and there I likewise heard that Amelia and her mother were to follow me the next morning.
"I was unloaded from my cart, and set down with the rest of the lumber in a great hall. Here I remained above three hours, impatiently waiting for the evening, when I determined to quit a posture which was become very uneasy, and break my prison; but Fortune contrived to release me sooner, by the following means: The house where I now was had been left in the care of one maid-servant. This faithful creature came into the hall with the footman who had driven the cart. A scene of the highest fondness having past between them, the fellow proposed, and the maid consented, to open the hamper and drink a bottle together, which, they agreed, their mistress would hardly miss in such a quantity. They presently began to execute their purpose. They opened the hamper, and, to their great surprise, discovered the contents.
"I took an immediate advantage of the consternation which appeared in the countenances of both the servants, and had sufficient presence of mind to improve the knowledge of those secrets to which I was privy. I told them that it entirely depended on their behaviour to me whether their mistress should ever be acquainted, either with what they had done or with what they had intended to do; for that if they would keep my secret I would reciprocally keep theirs. I then acquainted them with my purpose of lying concealed in the house, in order to watch an opportunity of obtaining a private interview with Amelia.
"In the situation in which these two delinquents stood, you may be assured it was not difficult for me to seal up their lips. In short, they agreed to whatever I proposed. I lay that evening in my dear Amelia's bedchamber, and was in the morning conveyed into an old lumber-garret, where I was to wait till Amelia (whom the maid promised, on her arrival, to inform of my place of concealment) could find some opportunity of seeing me."
"I ask pardon for interrupting you," cries Miss Matthews, "but you bring to my remembrance a foolish story which I heard at that time, though at a great distance from you: That an officer had, in confederacy with Miss Harris, broke open her mother's cellar and stole away a great quantity of her wine. I mention it only to shew you what sort of foundations most stories have."
Booth told her he had heard some such thing himself, and then continued his story as in the next chapter.
Containing many surprising adventures.
"There," continued he, "I remained the whole day in hopes of a happiness, the expected approach of which gave me such a delight that I would not have exchanged my poor lodgings for the finest palace in the universe.
"A little after it was dark Mrs. Harris arrived, together with Amelia and her sister. I cannot express how much my heart now began to flutter; for, as my hopes every moment encreased, strange fears, which I had not felt before, began now to intermingle with them.
"When I had continued full two hours in these circumstances, I heard a woman's step tripping upstairs, which I fondly hoped was my Amelia; but all on a sudden the door flew open, and Mrs. Harris herself appeared at it, with a countenance pale as death, her whole body trembling, I suppose with anger; she fell upon me in the most bitter language. It is not necessary to repeat what she said, nor indeed can I, I was so shocked and confounded on this occasion. In a word, the scene ended with my departure without seeing Amelia."
"And pray," cries Miss Matthews, "how happened this unfortunate discovery?"
Booth answered, That the lady at supper ordered a bottle of wine, "which neither myself," says he, "nor the servants had presence of mind to provide. Being told there was none in the house, though she had been before informed that the things came all safe, she had sent for the maid, who, being unable to devise any excuse, had fallen on her knees, and, after confessing her design of opening a bottle, which she imputed to the fellow, betrayed poor me to her mistress.
"Well, madam, after a lecture of about a quarter of an hour's duration from Mrs. Harris, I suffered her to conduct me to the outward gate of her court-yard, whence I set forward in a disconsolate condition of mind towards my lodgings. I had five miles to walkin a dark and rainy night: but how can I mention these trifling circumstances as any aggravation of my disappointment!"
"How was it possible," cried Miss Matthews, "that you could be got out of the house without seeing Miss Harris?"
"I assure you, madam," answered Booth, "I have often wondered at it myself; but my spirits were so much sunk at the sight of her mother, that no man was ever a greater coward than I was at that instant. Indeed, I believe my tender concern for the terrors of Amelia were the principal cause of my submission. However it was, I left the house, and walked about a hundred yards, when, at the corner of the garden- wall, a female voice, in a whisper, cried out, 'Mr. Booth.' The person was extremely near me, but it was so dark I could scarce see her; nor did I, in the confusion I was in, immediately recognize the voice. I answered in a line of Congreve's, which burst from my lips spontaneously; for I am sure I had no intention to quote plays at that time.
"'Who calls the wretched thing that was Alphonso?'
"Upon which a woman leapt into my arms, crying out—'O! it is indeed my Alphonso, my only Alphonso!'—O Miss Matthews! guess what I felt when I found I had my Amelia in my arms. I embraced her with an ecstasy not to be described, at the same instant pouring a thousand tendernesses into her ears; at least, if I could express so many to her in a minute, for in that time the alarm began at the house; Mrs. Harris had mist her daughter, and the court was presently full of lights and noises of all kinds.
"I now lifted Amelia over a gate, and, jumping after, we crept along together by the side of a hedge, a different way from what led to the town, as I imagined that would be the road through which they would pursue us. In this opinion I was right; for we heard them pass along that road, and the voice of Mrs. Harris herself, who ran with the rest, notwithstanding the darkness and the rain. By these means we luckily made our escape, and clambring over hedge and ditch, my Amelia performing the part of a heroine all the way, we at length arrived at a little green lane, where stood a vast spreading oak, under which we sheltered ourselves from a violent storm.
"When this was over and the moon began to appear, Amelia declared she knew very well where she was; and, a little farther striking into another lane to the right, she said that would lead us to a house where we should be both safe and unsuspected. I followed her directions, and we at length came to a little cottage about three miles distant from Mrs. Harris's house.
"As it now rained very violently, we entered this cottage, in which we espied a light, without any ceremony. Here we found an elderly woman sitting by herself at a little fire, who had no sooner viewed us than she instantly sprung from her seat, and starting back gave the strongest tokens of amazement; upon which Amelia said, 'Be not surprised, nurse, though you see me in a strange pickle, I own.' The old woman, after having several times blessed herself, and expressed the most tender concern for the lady who stood dripping before her, began to bestir herself in making up the fire; at the same time entreating Amelia that she might be permitted to furnish her with some cloaths, which, she said, though not fine, were clean and wholesome and much dryer than her own. I seconded this motion so vehemently, that Amelia, though she declared herself under no apprehension of catching cold (she hath indeed the best constitution in the world), at last consented, and I retired without doors under a shed, to give my angel an opportunity of dressing herself in the only room which the cottage afforded belowstairs.
"At my return into the room, Amelia insisted on my exchanging my coat for one which belonged to the old woman's son." "I am very glad," cried Miss Matthews, "to find she did not forget you. I own I thought it somewhat cruel to turn you out into the rain."—"O, Miss Matthews!" continued he, taking no notice of her observation, "I had now an opportunity of contemplating the vast power of exquisite beauty, which nothing almost can add to or diminish. Amelia, in the poor rags of her old nurse, looked scarce less beautiful than I have seen her appear at a ball or an assembly." "Well, well," cries Miss Matthews, "to be sure she did; but pray go on with your story."
"The old woman," continued he, "after having equipped us as well as she could, and placed our wet cloaths before the fire, began to grow inquisitive; and, after some ejaculations, she cried—'O, my dear young madam! my mind misgives me hugeously; and pray who is this fine young gentleman? Oh! Miss Emmy, Miss Emmy, I am afraid madam knows nothing of all this matter.' 'Suppose he should be my husband, nurse,' answered Amelia. 'Oh! good! and if he be,' replies the nurse, 'I hope he is some great gentleman or other, with a vast estate and a coach and six: for to be sure, if an he was the greatest lord in the land, you would deserve it all.' But why do I attempt to mimic the honest creature? In short, she discovered the greatest affection for my Amelia; with which I was much more delighted than I was offended at the suspicions she shewed of me, or the many bitter curses which she denounced against me, if I ever proved a bad husband to so sweet a young lady.
"I so well improved the hint given me by Amelia, that the old woman had no doubt of our being really married; and, comforting herself that, if it was not as well as it might have been, yet madam had enough for us both, and that happiness did not always depend on great riches, she began to rail at the old lady for having turned us out of doors, which I scarce told an untruth in asserting. And when Amelia said, 'She hoped her nurse would not betray her,' the good woman answered with much warmth—'Betray you, my dear young madam! no, that I would not, if the king would give me all that he is worth: no, not if madam herself would give me the great house, and the whole farm belonging to it.'
"The good woman then went out and fetched a chicken from the roost, which she killed, and began to pick, without asking any questions. Then, summoning her son, who was in bed, to her assistance, she began to prepare this chicken for our supper. This she afterwards set before us in so neat, I may almost say elegant, a manner, that whoever would have disdained it either doth not know the sensation of hunger, or doth not deserve to have it gratified. Our food was attended with some ale, which our kind hostess said she intended not to have tapped till Christmas; 'but,' added she, 'I little thought ever to have the honour of seeing my dear honoured lady in this poor place.'
"For my own part, no human being was then an object of envy to me, and even Amelia seemed to be in pretty good spirits; she softly whispered to me that she perceived there might be happiness in a cottage."
"A cottage!" cries Miss Matthews, sighing, "a cottage, with the man one loves, is a palace."
"When supper was ended," continued Booth, "the good woman began to think of our further wants, and very earnestly recommended her bed to us, saying, it was a very neat, though homely one, and that she could furnish us with a pair of clean sheets. She added some persuasives which painted my angel all over with vermilion. As for myself, I behaved so awkwardly and foolishly, and so readily agreed to Amelia's resolution of sitting up all night, that, if it did not give the nurse any suspicion of our marriage, it ought to have inspired her with the utmost contempt for me.
"We both endeavoured to prevail with nurse to retire to her own bed, but found it utterly impossible to succeed; she thanked Heaven she understood breeding better than that. And so well bred was the good woman, that we could scarce get her out of the room the whole night. Luckily for us, we both understood French, by means of which we consulted together, even in her presence, upon the measures we were to take in our present exigency. At length it was resolved that I should send a letter by this young lad, whom I have just before mentioned, to our worthy friend the doctor, desiring his company at our hut, since we thought it utterly unsafe to venture to the town, which we knew would be in an uproar on our account before the morning."
Here Booth made a full stop, smiled, and then said he was going to mention so ridiculous a distress, that he could scarce think of it without laughing. What this was the reader shall know in the next chapter.
The story of Booth continued.—More surprising adventures.
From what trifles, dear Miss Matthews," cried Booth, "may some of our greatest distresses arise! Do you not perceive I am going to tell you we had neither pen, ink, nor paper, in our present exigency?
"A verbal message was now our only resource; however, we contrived to deliver it in such terms, that neither nurse nor her son could possibly conceive any suspicion from it of the present situation of our affairs. Indeed, Amelia whispered me, I might safely place any degree of confidence in the lad; for he had been her foster-brother, and she had a great opinion of his integrity. He was in truth a boy of very good natural parts; and Dr Harrison, who had received him into his family, at Amelia's recommendation, had bred him up to write and read very well, and had taken some pains to infuse into him the principles of honesty and religion. He was not, indeed, even now discharged from the doctor's service, but had been at home with his mother for some time, on account of the small-pox, from which he was lately recovered.
"I have said so much," continued Booth, "of the boy's character, that you may not be surprised at some stories which I shall tell you of him hereafter.
"I am going now, madam, to relate to you one of those strange accidents which are produced by such a train of circumstances, that mere chance hath been thought incapable of bringing them together; and which have therefore given birth, in superstitious minds, to Fortune, and to several other imaginary beings.
"We were now impatiently expecting the arrival of the doctor; our messenger had been gone much more than a sufficient time, which to us, you may be assured, appeared not at all shorter than it was, when nurse, who had gone out of doors on some errand, came running hastily to us, crying out, 'O my dear young madam, her ladyship's coach is just at the door!' Amelia turned pale as death at these words; indeed, I feared she would have fainted, if I could be said to fear, who had scarce any of my senses left, and was in a condition little better than my angel's.
"While we were both in this dreadful situation, Amelia fallen back in her chair with the countenance in which ghosts are painted, myself at her feet, with a complexion of no very different colour, and nurse screaming out and throwing water in Amelia's face, Mrs. Harris entered the room. At the sight of this scene she threw herself likewise into a chair, and called immediately for a glass of water, which Miss Betty her daughter supplied her with; for, as to nurse, nothing was capable of making any impression on her whilst she apprehended her young mistress to be in danger.
"The doctor had now entered the room, and, coming immediately up to Amelia, after some expressions of surprize, he took her by the hand, called her his little sugar-plum, and assured her there were none but friends present. He then led her tottering across the room to Mrs. Harris. Amelia then fell upon her knees before her mother; but the doctor caught her up, saying, 'Use that posture, child, only to the Almighty!' but I need not mention this singularity of his to you who know him so well, and must have heard him often dispute against addressing ourselves to man in the humblest posture which we use towards the Supreme Being.
"I will tire you with no more particulars: we were soon satisfied that the doctor had reconciled us and our affairs to Mrs. Harris; and we now proceeded directly to church, the doctor having before provided a licence for us."
"But where is the strange accident?" cries Miss Matthews; "sure you have raised more curiosity than you have satisfied."
"Indeed, madam," answered he, "your reproof is just; I had like to have forgotten it; but you cannot wonder at me when you reflect on that interesting part of my story which I am now relating.—But before I mention this accident I must tell you what happened after Amelia's escape from her mother's house. Mrs. Harris at first ran out into the lane among her servants, and pursued us (so she imagined) along the road leading to the town; but that being very dirty, and a violent storm of rain coming, she took shelter in an alehouse about half a mile from her own house, whither she sent for her coach; she then drove, together with her daughter, to town, where, soon after her arrival, she sent for the doctor, her usual privy counsellor in all her affairs. They sat up all night together, the doctor endeavouring, by arguments and persuasions, to bring Mrs. Harris to reason; but all to no purpose, though, as he hath informed me, Miss Betty seconded him with the warmest entreaties."
Here Miss Matthews laughed; of which Booth begged to know the reason: she, at last, after many apologies, said, "It was the first good thing she ever heard of Miss Betty; nay," said she, "and asking your pardon for my opinion of your sister, since you will have it, I always conceived her to be the deepest of hypocrites."
Booth fetched a sigh, and said he was afraid she had not always acted so kindly;—and then, after a little hesitation, proceeded:
"You will be pleased, madam, to remember the lad was sent with a verbal message to the doctor: which message was no more than to acquaint him where we were, and to desire the favour of his company, or that he would send a coach to bring us to whatever place he would please to meet us at. This message was to be delivered to the doctor himself, and the messenger was ordered, if he found him not at home, to go to him wherever he was. He fulfilled his orders and told it to the doctor in the presence of Mrs. Harris."
"Oh, the idiot!" cries Miss Matthews. "Not at all," answered Booth: "he is a very sensible fellow, as you will, perhaps, say hereafter. He had not the least reason to suspect that any secrecy was necessary; for we took the utmost care he should not suspect it.—Well, madam, this accident, which appeared so unfortunate, turned in the highest degree to our advantage. Mrs. Harris no sooner heard the message delivered than she fell into the most violent passion imaginable, and accused the doctor of being in the plot, and of having confederated with me in the design of carrying off her daughter.