They had asked Mr. H. to go with them, for company to Sir Jacob; but he (on purpose, as I believe by what followed) could not be found, when they set out: so they supposed he was upon some ramble with Mr. Colbrand, his great favourite.
I was writing to you, being pretty well recovered, when I heard Polly, as I supposed, and as it proved, come into my apartment: and down she sat, and sung a little catch, and cried, "Hem!" twice; and presently I heard two voices. But suspecting nothing, I wrote on, till I heard a kind of rustling and struggling, and Polly's voice crying, "Fie—How can you do so!—Pray, Sir."
This alarmed me much, because we have such orderly folks about us; and I looked through the key-hole; and, to my surprise and concern, saw Mr. H.—foolish gentleman!—taking liberties with Polly, that neither became him to offer, nor, more foolish girl! her to suffer. And having reason to think, that this was not their first interview, and freedom—and the girl sometimes encouragingly laughing, as at other times, inconsistently, struggling and complaining, in an accent that was too tender for the occasion, I forced a faint cough. This frighted them both: Mr. H. swore, and said, "Who can that be?—Your lady's gone with them, isn't she?"
"I believe so!—I hope so!" said the silly girl—"yet that was like her voice!—Me'm, are you in your closet, Me'm?" said she, coming up to the door; Mr. H. standing like a poor thief, half behind the window-curtains, till he knew whether it was I.
I opened the door: away sneaked Mr. H., and she leaped with surprise, not hoping to find me there, though she asked the question.
"I thought—Indeed—Me'm—I thought you were gone out,"—"It is plain you did, Polly.—Go and shut the chamber door, and come to me again."
She did, but trembled, and was so full of confusion, that I pitied the poor creature, and hardly knew how to speak to her. For my compassion got the upper hand of my resentment; and as she stood quaking and trembling, and looking on the ground with a countenance I cannot describe, I now and then cast my eye upon her, and was as often forced to put my handkerchief to it.
At last I said, "How long have these freedoms past between you and Mr. H.?—I am loth to be censorious, Polly; but it is too plain, that Mr. H. would not have followed you into my chamber, if he had not met you at other places."—The poor girl said never a word.—"Little did I expect, Polly, that you would have shewn so much imprudence. You have had instances of the vile arts of men against poor maidens: have you any notion that Mr. H. intends to do honourably by you?" —"Me'm—Me'm—I believe—I hope—I dare say, Mr. H. would not do otherwise."—"So much the worse that you believe so, if you have not very good reason for your belief. Does he pretend that he will marry you?"—She was silent.—"Tell me, Polly, if he does?"—"He says he will do honourably by me."—"But you know there is but one word necessary to explain that other precious word honour, in this case. It is matrimony. That word is as soon spoken as any other, and if he means it, he will not be shy to speak it."—She was silent.— "Tell me, Polly (for I am really greatly concerned for you), what you think yourself; do you hope he will marry you?"—She was silent.—"Do, good Polly (I hope I may call you good yet!), answer me."—"Pray, Madam!" and she wept, and turned from me, to the wainscot—"Pray, excuse me."—"But, indeed, Polly, I cannot excuse you. You are under my protection. I was once in as dangerous a situation as you can be in. And I did not escape it, child, by the language and conduct I heard from you."—"Language and conduct, Me'm!"—"Yes, Polly, language and conduct. Do you think, if I had set me down in my lady's bed-chamber, sung a song, and hemm'd twice, and Mr. B. coming to me, upon that signal (for such I doubt it was), I had kept my place, and suffered myself to be rumpled, and only, in a soft voice, and with an encouraging laugh, cried—'How can you do so?' that I should have been what I am?"—"Me'm, I dare say, my lord" (so all the servants call him, and his aunt often, when she puts Jackey to it), "means no hurt."—"No hurt, Polly! What, and make you cry 'Fie!'-or do you intend to trust your honour to his mercy, rather than to your own discretion?"—"I hope not, Me'm!"—"I hope not too, Polly!—But you know he was free enough with you, to make you say 'Fie!' And what might have been the case, who knows? had I not coughed on purpose: unwilling, for your sake, Polly, to find matters so bad as I feared, and that you would have been led beyond what was reputable."
"Reputable, Me'm!"—"Yes, Polly: I am sorry you oblige me to speak so plain. But your good requires it. Instead of flying from him, you not only laughed when you cried out, 'Fie!' and 'How can you do so?' but had no other care than to see if any body heard you; and you observe how he slid away, like a guilty creature, on my opening the door—Do these things look well, Polly? Do you think they do?—And if you hope to emulate my good fortune, do you think this is the way?"
"I wish, Me'm, I had never seen Mr. H. For nobody will look upon me, if I lose your favour!"
"It will still, Polly" (and I took her hand, with a kind look), "be in your power to keep it: I will not mention this matter, if you make me your friend, and tell me all that has passed."—Again she wept, and was silent.—This made me more uneasy.—"Don't think, Polly," said I, "that I would envy any other person's preferment, when I have been so much exalted myself. If Mr. H. has talked to you of marriage, tell me."—"No, Me'm, I can't say he has yet."—"Yet, Polly! Then he never. will. For when men do talk of it, they don't always mean it: but whenever they mean it, how can they confirm a doubting maiden, without mentioning it: but alas for you, poor Polly!—The freedoms you have permitted, no doubt, previous to those I heard, and which might have been greater, had I not surprised you with my cough, shew too well, that he need not make any promises to you."—"Indeed, Me'm," said she, sobbing, "I might be too little upon my guard; but I would not have done any ill for the world."
"I hope you would not, Polly; but if you suffer these freedoms, you can't tell what you'd have permitted—Tell me, do you love Mr. H.?"
"He is very good-humoured, Madam, and is not proud."—"No, 'tis not his business to be proud, when he hopes to humble you—humble you, indeed!—beneath the lowest person of the sex, that is honest."—"I hope——"—"You hope!" interrupted I. "You hope too much; and I fear a great deal for you, because you fear so little for yourself.—But say, how often have you been in private together?"
"In private, Me'm! I don't know what your ladyship calls private!"—"Why that is private, Polly, when, as just now, you neither imagined nor intended any body should see you."
She was silent; and I saw by this, poor girl, how true lovers are to their secret, though, perhaps, their ruin depends upon keeping it. But it behoved me, on many accounts, to examine this matter narrowly; because if Mr. H. should marry her, it would have been laid upon Mr. B.'s example.—And if Polly were ruined, it would be a sad thing, and people would have said, "Aye, she could take care enough of herself, but none at all of her servant: her waiting-maid had a much more remiss mistress than Pamela found, or the matter would not have been thus."
"Well, Polly, I see," continued I, "that you will not speak out to me. You may have several reasons for it, possibly, though not one good one. But as soon as Lady Davers comes in, who has a great concern in this matter, as well as Lord Davers, and are answerable to Lord H. in a matter of so much importance as this, I will leave it to her ladyship's consideration, and shall no more concern myself to ask you questions about it—For then I must take her ladyship's directions, and part with you, to be sure."
The poor girl, frighted at this (for every body fears Lady Davers), wrung her hands, and begged, for God's sake, I would not acquaint Lady Davers with it.
"But how can I help it?—Must I not connive at your proceedings, if I do not? You are no fool, Polly, in other cases. Tell me, how it is possible for me, in my situation, to avoid it?"
"I will tell your ladyship the whole truth; indeed I will—if you will not tell Lady Davers. I am ready to sink at the thoughts of Lady Davers knowing any thing of this."
This looked sadly. I pitied her, but yet was angry in my mind; for I saw, too plainly, that her conduct could not bear a scrutiny, not even in her own opinion, poor creature.
I said, "Make me acquainted with the whole."—"Will your ladyship promise—"—"I'll promise nothing, Polly. When I have heard all you think proper to say, I will do what befits me to do; but with as much tenderness as I can for you—and that's all you ought to expect me to promise."—"Why then, Madam—But how can I speak it?—I can speak sooner to any body, than to Lady Davers and you, Madam: for her ladyship's passion, and your ladyship's virtue—How shall I?"—And then she threw herself at my feet, and hid her face with her apron.
I was in agonies for her, almost; I wept over her, and raised her up, and said, "Tell me all. You cannot tell me worse than I apprehend, nor I hope so bad! O Polly, tell me soon.—For you give me great pain."
And my back, with grief and compassion for the poor girl, was ready to open, as it seemed to me.—In my former distresses, I have been overcome by fainting next to death, and was deprived of sense for some moments—But else, I imagine, I must have felt some such affecting sensation, as the unhappy girl's case gave me.
"Then, Madam, I own," said she, "I have been too faulty."—"As how?—As what?—In what way?—How faulty?"—asked I, as quick as thought: "you are not ruined, are you?—Tell me, Polly!"—"No, Madam, but—"—"But what?—Say, but what?"—"I had consented—"—"To what?"—"To his proposals, Madam."—"What proposals?"—"Why, Madam, I was to live with Mr. H."
"I understand you too well—But is it too late to break so wretched a bargain;—have you already made a sacrifice of your honour?"
"No, Madam: but I have given it under my hand."
"Under your hand!—Ah! Polly, it is well if you have not given it under your heart too. But what foolishness is this!—What consideration has he made you?"—"He has given it under his hand, that he will always love me; and when his lordship's father dies, he will own me."
"What foolishness is this on both sides!—But are you willing to be released from this bargain?"
"Indeed I am. Madam, and I told him so yesterday. But he says he will sue me, and ruin me, if I don't stand to it."
"You are ruined if you do!—And I wish—But tell me, Polly, are you not ruined as it is?"
"Indeed I am not, Madam."
"I doubt, then, you were upon the brink of it, had not this providential indisposition kept me at home.—You met, I suppose, to conclude your shocking bargain.—O poor unhappy girl!—But let me see what he has given under his hand!"
"He has 'em both, Madam, to be drawn up fair, and in a strong hand, that shall be like a record."
Could I have thought, Miss, that a girl of nineteen could be so ignorant in a point so important, when in every thing else she has shewn no instances like this stupid folly?
"Has he given you money?"
"Yes, Madam, he gave me—he gave me—a note. Here it is. He says any body will give me money for it." And this was a bank note of fifty pounds, which she pulled out of her stays.
The result was, he was to settle one hundred pounds a year upon her and hers, poor, poor girl—and was to own her, as he calls it (but as wife or mistress, she stipulated not), when his father died, and he came into the title and estate.
I told her, it was impossible for me to conceal the matter from Lady Davers, if she would not, by her promises to be governed entirely by me, and to abandon all thoughts of Mr. H., give me room to conclude, that the wicked bargain was at an end.
And to keep the poor creature in some spirits, and to enable her to look up, and to be more easy under my direction, I blamed him more than I did her: though, considering what virtue requires of a woman, and custom has made shameless in a man, I think the poor girl inexcusable, and shall not be easy while she is about me. For she is more to blame, because, of the two, she has more wit than the man.
"But what can I do?" thought I. "If I put her away, 'twill be to throw her directly into his hands. He won't stay here long: and she may see her folly. But yet her eyes were open; she knew what she had to trust to—and by their wicked beginning, and her encouraging repulses, I doubt she would have been utterly ruined that very day."
I knew the rage Lady Davers would be in with both. So this was another embarrassment. Yet should my good intentions fail, and they conclude their vile bargain, and it appeared that I knew of it, but would not acquaint her, then should I have been more blamed than any mistress of a family, circumstanced as I am. Upon the whole, I resolved to comfort the girl as well as I could, till I had gained her confidence, that my advice might have the more weight, and, by degrees, be more likely to reclaim her: for, poor soul! there would be an end of her reputation, the most precious of all jewels, the moment the matter was known; and that would be a sad thing.
As for the man, I thought it best to take courage (and you, that know me, will say, I must have a good deal more than usual) to talk to Mr. H. on this subject. And she consenting I should, and, with great protestations, declaring her sorrow and repentance, begging to get her note of hand again, and to give him back his note of fifty pounds, I went down to find him.
He shunned me, as a thief would a constable at the head of a hue-and-cry. As I entered one room, he went into another, looking with conscious guilt, yet confidently humming a tune. At last I fixed him, bidding Rachel tell Polly be wanted to send a message by her to her lady. By which I doubted not he was desirous to know what she had owned, in order to govern himself accordingly.
His back was towards me; and I said—
"Mr. H., here I am myself, to take your commands."
He gave a caper half a yard high—"Madam, I wanted—I wanted to speak to—I would have spoken with—"
"You wanted to send Polly to me, perhaps, Mr. H., to ask if I would take a little walk with you in the garden."
"Very true, Madam!—Very true indeed!—You have guessed the matter. I thought it was pity, this fine day, as every body was taking airing—"
"Well then. Sir, please to lead the way, and I'll attend you."
"Yet I fancy, Madam, the wind is a little too high for you.—Won't you catch cold?"—"No, never fear, Mr. H., I am not afraid of a little air."
"I will attend you presently, Madam: you'll be in the great gravel walk, or on the terrace.—I'll wait upon you in an instant."
I had the courage to take hold of his arm, as if I had like to have slipt.—For, thought I, thou shalt not see the girl till I have talked to thee a little, if thou dost then.—"Excuse me, Mr. H.—I hope I have not hurt my foot—I must lean upon you."
"Will you be pleased, Madam, to have a chair? I fear you have sprained your foot.—Shall I help you to a chair?"
"No, no, Sir, I shall walk it off, if I hold by you."
So he had no excuse to leave me, and we proceeded into the garden. But never did any thing look so like a foolish fellow, as his aunt calls him. He looked, if possible, half a dozen ways at once, hemm'd, coughed, turned his head behind him every now and then, started half a dozen silly subjects, in hopes to hinder me from speaking.
I appeared, I believe, under some concern how to begin with him; for he would have it I was not very well, and begged he might step in one minute to desire Mrs. Jervis to attend me.
So I resolved to begin with him; lest I should lose the opportunity, seeing my eel so very slippery. And placing myself on a seat, asked him to sit down. He declined, and would wait upon me presently, he said, and seemed to be going. So I began—"It is easy for me, Mr. H., to penetrate into the reason why you are so willing to leave me: but 'tis for your own sake, that I desire you to hear me, that no mischief may ensue among friends and relations, on an occasion to which you are no stranger."
"O, Madam, what can you mean? Surely, Madam, you don't think amiss of a little innocent liberty, or so!"
"Mr. H.," replied I, "I want not any evidence of your inhospitable designs upon a poor unwary young creature, whom your birth and quality have found it too easy a task to influence."
"Inhospitable designs! Madam!—A harsh word! You very nice ladies cannot admit of the least freedom in the world!—Why, Madam, I have kiss'd a lady's woman before now, in a civil way or so, and never was called to an account for it, as a breach of hospitality."
"Tis not for me, Mr. H., to proceed to very nice particulars with a gentleman who can act as you have done, by a poor girl, that dare not have looked up to a man of your quality, had you not levelled all distinction between you in order to level the weak creature to the common dirt of the highway. I must say, that the poor girl heartily repents of her folly; and, to shew you, that it signifies nothing to deny it, she begs you will return the note of her hand you extorted from her foolishness; and I hope you'll be so much of a gentleman, as not to keep in your power such a testimony of the weakness of any of the sex."
"Has she told you that, Madam?—Why, may be—indeed—I can't but say—Truly, it mayn't look so well to you, Madam: but young folks will have frolics. It was nothing but a frolic. Let me be hanged, if it was!"
"Be pleased then, Sir, to give up her note to me, to return to her. Reputation should not be frolicked with, Sir; especially that of a poor girl, who has nothing else to depend upon."
"I'll give it her myself, if you please, Madam, and laugh at her into the bargain. Why, 'tis comical enough, if the little pug thought I was earnest, I must have a laugh or two at her, Madam, when I give it her up."
"Since, 'tis but a frolic, Mr. H., you won't take it amiss, that when we are set down to supper, we call Polly in, and demand a sight of her note, and that will make every one merry as well as you."
"Not so, Madam, that mayn't be so well neither! For, perhaps, they will be apt to think it is in earnest; when, as I hope to live, 'tis but a jest: nothing in the world else, upon honour!"
I put on then a still more serious air—"As you hope to live, say you, Mr. H.!—and upon your honour! How! fear you not an instant punishment for this appeal? And what is the honour you swear by? Take that, and answer me, Sir: do gentlemen give away bank-notes for frolics, and for mere jests, and nothing in the world else!—I am sorry to be obliged to deal thus with you. But I thought I was talking to a gentleman who would not forfeit his veracity; and that in so solemn an instance as this!"
He looked like a man thunderstruck. His face was distorted, and his head seemed to turn about upon his neck, like a weather-cock in a hurricane, to all points of the compass; his hands clenched as in a passion, and yet shame and confusion struggling in every limb and feature. At last he said, "I am confoundedly betrayed. But if I am exposed to my uncle and aunt" (for the wretch thought of nobody but himself), "I am undone, and shall never be able to look them in the face. 'Tis true, I had a design upon her; and since she has betrayed me, I think I may say, that she was as willing, almost, as I."
"Ungenerous, contemptible wretch!" thought I—"But such of our sex as can thus give up their virtue, ought to expect no better: for he that sticks not at one bad action, will not scruple at another to vindicate himself: and so, devil-like, become the attempter and the accuser too!"
"But if you will be so good," said he, with hands uplifted, "as to take no notice of this to my uncle, and especially to my aunt and Mr. B., I swear to you, I never will think of her as long as I live."
"And you'll bind this promise, will you, Sir, by your honour, and as you hope to live?"
"Dear, good Madam, forgive me, I beseech you; don't be so severe upon me. By all that's—"
"Don't swear, Mr. H. But as an earnest that I may believe you, give me back the girl's foolish note, that, though 'tis of no significance, she may not have that to witness her folly."—He took out his pocket-book: "There it is, Madam! And I beg you'll forgive this attempt: I see I ought not to have made it. I doubt it was a breach of the laws of hospitality, as you say. But to make it known, will only expose me, and it can do no good; and Mr. B. will perhaps resent it; and my aunt will never let me hear the last of it, nor my uncle neither—And I shall be sent to travel again—And" (added the poor creature) "I was once in a storm, and the crossing the sea again would be death to me."
"What a wretch art thou!" thought I. "What could such an one as thou find to say, to a poor creature that, if put in the scale against considerations of virtue, should make the latter kick the [Transcriber's note: illegible] "Poor, poor Tony Barrow! thou art sunk indeed! Too low for excuse, and almost beneath pity!"
I told him, if I could observe that nothing passed between them, that should lay me under a necessity of revealing the matter, I should not be forward to expose him, nor the maiden either: but that he must, in his own judgment, excuse me, if I made every body acquainted with it, if I were to see the correspondence between them likely to be renewed or carried on: "For," added I, "in that case I should owe it to myself, to Mr. B., to Lord and Lady Davers, and to you, and the unhappy body too, to do so."
He would needs drop down on one knee, to promise this; and with a thousand acknowledgments, left me to find Mr. Colbrand, in order to ride to meet the coach on its return. I went in, and gave the foolish note to the silly girl, which she received eagerly, and immediately burnt; and I told her, I would not suffer her to come near me but as little as possible, when I was in company while Mr. H. staid; but consigned her entirely to the care of Mrs. Jervis, to whom only, I said, I would hint the matter as tenderly as I could: and for this, I added, I had more reasons than one; first, to give her the benefit of a good gentlewoman's advice, to which I had myself formerly been beholden, and from whom I concealed nothing; next, to keep out of Mr. H.'s way; and lastly that I might have an opportunity, from Mrs. Jervis's opinion, to judge of the sincerity of her repentance: "For, Polly," said I, "you must imagine, so regular and uniform as all our family is, and so good as I thought all the people about me were, that I could not suspect, that she, the duties of whose place made her nearest to my person, was the farthest from what I wished."
I have set this matter so strongly before her, and Mrs. Jervis has so well seconded me, that I hope the best; for the grief the poor creature carries in her looks, and expresses in her words, cannot be described; frequently accusing herself, with tears, saying often to Mrs. Jervis, she is not worthy to stand in the presence of her mistress, whose example she has made so bad an use of, and whose lessons she had so ill followed.
I am sadly troubled at this matter, however; but I take great comfort in reflecting that my sudden indisposition looked like a providential thing, which may save one poor soul, and be a seasonable warning to her, as long as she lives.
Meantime I must observe, that at supper last night, Mr. H. looked abject and mean, and like a poor thief, as I thought, and conscious of his disappointed folly (though I seldom glanced my eye upon him), had less to say for himself than ever.
And once my Lady Davers, laughing, said, "I think in my heart, my nephew looks more foolish every time I see him, than the last." He stole a look at me, and blushed; and my lord said, "Jackey has some grace! He blushes! Hold up thy head, nephew! Hast thou nothing at all to say for thyself?"
Sir Jacob said, "A blush becomes a young gentleman! I never saw one before though, in Mr. H.—What's the matter, Sir?"—"Only," said Lady Davers, "his skin or his conscience is mended, that's all."
"Thank you, Madam," was all he said, bowing to his aunt, and affecting a careless yet confused air, as if he whispered a whistle. "O, wretch!" thought I, "see what it is to have a condemning conscience; while every innocent person looks round easy, smiling, and erect!"—But yet it was not the shame of a bad action, I doubt, but being discovered and disappointed, that gave him his confusion of face.
What a sad thing for a person to be guilty of such actions, as shall put it in the power of another, even by a look, to mortify him! And if poor souls can be thus abjectly struck at such a discovery by a fellow-creature, how must they appear before an unerring and omniscient Judge, with a conscience standing in the place of a thousand witnesses? and calling in vain upon the mountains to fall upon them, and the hills to cover them!—How serious this subject makes one!
I am just retired from a fatiguing service; for who should come to dine with Mr. B. but that sad rake Sir Charles Hargrave; and Mr. Walgrave, Mr. Sedley, and Mr. Floyd, three as bad as himself; inseparable companions, whose whole delight is drinking, hunting, and lewdness; but otherwise gentlemen of wit and large estates. Three of them broke in upon us at the Hall, on the happiest day of my life, to our great regret; and they had been long threatening to make this visit, in order to see me, as they told Mr. B.
They whipt out two bottles of champagne instantly, for a whet, as they called it; and went to view the stud and the kennel, and then walked in the garden till dinner was ready; my Lord Davers, Mr. H. and Sir Jacob, as well as Mr. B. (for they are all acquainted) accompanying them.
Sir Charles, it seems, as Lord Davers told me afterwards; said, he longed to see Mrs. B. She was the talk wherever he went, and he had conceived a high opinion of her beforehand.
Lord Davers said, "I defy you, gentlemen, to think so highly of her as she deserves, take mind and person together."
Mr. Floyd said, he never saw any woman yet, who came up to what he expected, where fame had been lavish in her praise.
"But how, brother baronet," said Sir Charles to Sir Jacob, "came you to be reconciled to her? I heard that you would never own her."
"Oons man!" said Sir Jacob, "I was taken in.—They contrived to clap her upon me as Lady Jenny C. and pretended they'd keep t'other out of my sight; and I was plaguily bit, and forced to get on as well as I could."
"That was a bite indeed," said Mr. Walgrave; "and so you fell a praising Lady Jenny, I warrant, to the skies."
"Ye—s" (drawling out the affirmative monosyllable), "I was used most scurvily: faith I was. I bear 'em a grudge for it still, I can tell 'em that; for I have hardly been able to hold up my head like a man since—but am forced to go and come, and to do as they bid me. By my troth, I never was so manageable in my life."
"Your Herefordshire neighbours, Sir Jacob," said Mr. Sedley, with an oath, "will rejoice to hear this; for the whole county there cannot manage you."
"I am quite cow'd now, as you will see by-and-by; nay, for that matter, if you can set Mrs. B. a talking, not one of you all will care to open your lips, except to say as she says."
"Never fear, old boy," said Sir Charles, "we'll bear our parts in conversation. I never saw the woman yet, who could give me either awe or love for six minutes together. What think you, Mr. B.? Have you any notion, that your lady will have so much power over us?"
"I think, Sir Charles, I have one of the finest women in England; but I neither expect nor desire you rakes should see her with my eyes."
"You know, if I have a mind to love her, and make court to her too, Mr. B., I will: and I am half in love with her already, although I have not seen her."
They came in when dinner was near ready, and the four gentlemen took each a large bumper of old hock for another whet.
The countess, Lady Davers, and I came down together. The gentlemen knew our two noble ladies, and were known to them in person, as well as by character. Mr. B., in his usual kind and encouraging manner, took my hand, and presented the four gentlemen to me, each by his name. Sir Charles said, pretty bluntly, that he hoped he was more welcome to me now, than the last time he was under the same roof with me; for he had been told since, that that was our happy day.
I said, Mr. B.'s friends were always welcome to me.
"Tis well, Madam," said Mr. Sedley, "we did not know how it was. We should have quartered ourselves upon Mr. B. for a week together, and kept him up day and night."
I thought this speech deserved no answer, especially as they were gentlemen who wanted no countenance, and addressed myself to Lord Davers, who is always kindly making court to me: "I hope, my good lord, you find yourself quite recovered of your head-ache?" (of which he complained at breakfast).
"I thank you, my dear sister, pretty well."
"I was telling Sir Charles and the other gentlemen, niece," said Sir Jacob, "how I was cheated here, when I came first, with a Lady Jenny."
"It was a very lucky cheat for me, Sir Jacob; for it gave you a prepossession in my favour under so advantageous a character, that I could never have expected otherwise."
"I wish," said the countess, "my daughter, for whom Sir Jacob took you, had Mrs. B.'s qualities to boast of."—"How am I obliged to your ladyship's goodness," returned I, "when you treat me with even greater indulgence than you use to so beloved a daughter!"
"Nay, now you talk of treating," said Sir Charles, "when, ladies, will you treat our sex with the politeness which you shew to one another?"
"When your sex deserve it, Sir Charles," answered Lady Davers.
"Who is to be judge of that?" said Mr. Walgrave.
"Not the gentlemen, I hope," replied my lady.
"Well then, Mrs. B.," said Sir Charles, "we bespeak your good opinion of us; for you have ours."
"I am obliged to you, gentlemen; but I must be more cautious in declaring mine, lest it should be thought I am influenced by your kind, and perhaps too hasty, opinions of me."
Sir Charles swore they had seen enough of me the moment I entered the parlour, and heard enough the moment I opened my lips to answer for their opinions of me.
I said, I made no doubt, when they had as good a subject to expatiate upon, as I had, in the pleasure before me, of seeing so many agreeable friends of Mr. B.'s, they would maintain the title they claimed of every one's good opinion.
"This," said Sir Jacob, "is binding you over, gentlemen, to your good behaviour. You must know, my niece never shoots flying, as you do."
The gentlemen laughed: "Is it shooting flying, Sir Jacob," returned Sir Charles, "to praise that lady?"
"Ads-bud, I did not think of that."
"Sir Jacob," said the countess, "you need not be at a fault;—for a good sportsman always hits his mark, flying or not; and the gentlemen had so fair an one, that they could not well miss it."
"You are fairly helped over the stile, Sir Jacob," said Mr. Floyd.
"And, indeed, I wanted it; though I limped like a puppy before I was lame. One can't think of every thing as one used to do at your time of life, gentlemen." This flippant stuff was all that passed, which I can recite; for the rest, at table, and after dinner, was too polite by half for me; such as, the quantity of wine each man could carry off (that was the phrase), dogs, horses, hunting, racing, cock-fighting, and all accompanied with swearing and cursing, and that in good humour, and out of wantonness (the least excusable and more profligate sort of swearing and cursing of all).
The gentlemen liked the wine so well, that we had the felicity to drink tea and coffee by ourselves; only Mr. B. (upon our inviting the gentlemen to partake with us) sliding in for a few minutes to tell us, they would stick by what they had, and taking a dish of coffee with us.
I should not omit one observation; that Sir Jacob, when they were gone, said they were pure company; and Mr. H. that he never was so delighted in his born days.—While the two ladies put up their prayers, that they might never have such another entertainment. And being encouraged by their declaration, I presumed to join in the same petition.
Yet it seems, these are men of wit! I believe they must be so—for I could neither like nor understand them. Yet, if their conversation had much wit, I should think my ladies would have found it out.
The gentlemen, permit me to add, went away very merry, to ride ten miles by owl-light; for they would not accept of beds here. They had two French horns with them, and gave us a flourish or two at going off. Each had a servant besides: but the way they were in would have given me more concern than it did, had they been related to Mr. B. and less used to it. And, indeed, it is a happiness, that such gentlemen take no more care than they generally do, to interest any body intimately in their healths and preservation; for these are all single men. Nor need the public, any more than the private, be much concerned about them; for let such persons go when they will, if they continue single, their next heir cannot well be a worse commonwealth's man; and there is a great chance he may be better.
You know I end my Saturdays seriously. And this, to what I have already said, makes me add, that I cannot express how much I am, my dear Miss Darnford, your faithful and affectionate PB
From Mrs. B. to Miss Darnford. In Answer to Letters XXXV and XXXVI.
MY DEAR MISS DARNFORD,
I skip over the little transactions of several days, to let you know how much you rejoice me, in telling me Sir Simon has been so kind as to comply with my wishes. Both your most agreeable letters came to my hand together, and I thank you a hundred times for them; and I thank your dear mamma, and Sir Simon too, for the pleasure they have given me in this obliging permission. How happy shall we be!—But how long will you be permitted to stay, though? All the winter, I hope:—and then, when that is over, let us set out together, if God shall spare us, directly for Lincolnshire; and to pass most of the summer likewise in each other's company. What a sweet thought is this!—Let me indulge it a little while.
Mr. B. read your letters, and says, you are a charming young lady, and surpass yourself in every letter. I told him, that he was more interested in the pleasure I took in this favour of Sir Simon's than he imagined. "As how, my dear?" said he. "A plain case, Sir," replied I: "for endeavouring to improve myself by Miss Darnford's conversation and behaviour, I shall every day be more worthy of your favour." He kindly would have it, that nobody, no, not Miss Darnford herself, excelled me.
'Tis right, you know, Miss, that Mr. B. should think so, though I must know nothing at all, if I was not sensible how inferior I am to my dear Miss Darnford: and yet, when I look abroad now-and-then, I could be a proud slut, if I would, and not yield the palm to many others.
Well, my dear Miss,
Is past and gone, as happy as the last; the two ladies, and, at their earnest request, Sir Jacob bearing us company, in the evening part. My Polly was there morning and evening, with her heart broken almost, poor girl!—I put her in a corner of my closet, that her concern should not be minded. Mrs. Jervis gives me great hopes of her.
Sir Jacob was much pleased with our family order, and said, 'twas no wonder I kept so good myself, and made others so: and he thought the four rakes (for he run on how much they admired me) would be converted, if they saw how well I passed my time, and how cheerful and easy every one, as well as myself was under it! He said, when he came home, he must take such a method himself in his family; for, he believed, it would make not only better masters and mistresses, but better children, and better servants too. But, poor gentleman! he has, I doubt, a great deal to mend in himself, before he can begin such a practice with efficacy in his family.
In the afternoon. Sir Jacob took his leave of us, highly satisfied with us both, and particularly (so he said) with me; and promised that my two cousins, as he called his daughters, and his sister, an old maiden lady, if they went to town this winter, should visit me, and be improved by me; that was his word. Mr. B. accompanied him some miles on his journey, and the two ladies, and Lord Davers, and I, took an airing in the coach.
Mr. B. was so kind as to tell me, when he came home, with a whisper, that Miss Goodwin presented her duty to me.
I have got a multitude of fine things for the dear little creature, and Mr. B. promises to give me a dairy-house breakfast, when our guests are gone.
I enclose the history of this little charmer, by Mr. B.'s consent, since you are to do us the honour, as he (as well as I) pleases himself, to be one of our family—but keep it to yourself, whatever you do. I am guarantee that you will; and have put it in a separate paper, that you may burn it when read. For I may want your advice on this subject, having a great desire to get this child in my possession; and yet Lady Davers has given a hint, that dwells a little with me. When I have the pleasure I hope for, I will lay all before you, and be determined, and proceed, as far as I have power, by you. You, my good father and mother, have seen the story in my former papers.
You must know, I pass over the days thus swiftly, not that I could not fill them up with writing, as amply as I have done the former; but intending only to give you a general idea of our way of life and conversation; and having gone through a whole week and more, you will be able, from what I have recited, to form a judgment how it is with us, one day with another. As for example, now and then neighbourly visits received and paid—Needlework between whiles—Music—Cards sometimes, though I don't love them—One more benevolent round—Improving conversations with my dear Mr. B. and my two good ladies—A lesson from him, when alone, either in French or Latin—A new pauper case or two—A visit from the good dean—Mr. Williams's departure, in order to put the new projected alteration in force, which is to deprive me of my chaplain—(By the way, the dean is highly pleased with this affair, and the motives to it, Mr. Adams being a favourite of his, and a distant relation of his lady)—Mr. H.'s and Polly's mutual endeavour to avoid one another—My lessons to the poor girl, and cautions, as if she were my sister—
These, my dear Miss Darnford, and my honoured parents, are the pleasant employments of our time; so far as we females are concerned: for the gentlemen hunt, ride out, and divert themselves in their way, and bring us home the news and occurrences they meet with abroad, and now-and-then a straggling gentleman they pick up in their diversions. And so I shall not enlarge upon these articles, after the tedious specimens I have already given.
Could you ever have thought, my dear, that husbands have a dispensing power over their wives, which kings are not allowed over the laws? I have had a smart debate with Mr. B., and I fear it will not be the only one upon this subject. Can you believe, that if a wife thinks a thing her duty to do, which her husband does not approve, he can dispense with her performing it, and no sin shall lie at her door? Mr. B. maintains this point. I have great doubts about it; particularly one; that if a matter be my duty, and he dispenses with my performance of it, whether, even although that were to clear me of the sin, it will not fall upon himself? And a good wife would be as much concerned at this, as if it was to remain upon her. Yet he seems set upon it. What can one do?—Did you ever hear of such a notion, before? Of such a prerogative in a husband? Would you care to subscribe to it?
He says, the ladies are of his opinion. I'm afraid they are, and so will not ask them. But, perhaps, I mayn't live, and other things may happen; and so I'll say no more of it at present.
Mr. H. and my Lord and Lady Davers and the excellent Countess of C. having left us this day, to our mutual regret, the former put the following letter into my hands, with an air of respect and even reverence. He says, he spells most lamentably; and this obliges me to give it you literally:
"DEARE GOOD MADAM,
"I cannott contente myself with common thankes, on leaving youres, and Mr. B.'s hospitabel house, because of thatt there affaire, which I neede not mention! and truly am ashamed to mention, as I have been to looke you in the face ever since it happen'd. I don't knowe how itt came aboute, butt I thought butt att first of joking a littel, or soe; and seeing Polley heard me with more attentiveness than I expected, I was encouraged to proceede; and soe, now I recollecte, itt camn aboute.
"But she is innosente for me: and I don't knowe how thatt came about neither; for wee were oute one moonelighte nighte in the garden, walking aboute, and afterwards tooke a napp of two houres, as I beliefe, in the summer-house in the littel gardin, being over-powered with sleepe; for I woulde make her lay her head uppon my breste, till before we were awar, wee felle asleepe. Butt before thatt, wee had agreed on whatt you discovered.
"This is the whole truthe, and all the intimasies we ever hadde, to speake off. But I beleefe we should have been better acquainted, hadd you nott, luckily for mee! prevented itt, by being at home, when we thought you abroad. For I was to come to her when shee hemm'd two or three times; for having made a contract, you knowe. Madam, it was naturall enough to take the first occasion to putt itt in force.
"Poor Polley! I pity her too. Don't thinke the worse of her, deare Madam, so as to turn her away, because it may bee her ruin. I don't desire too see her. I might have been drawne in to do strange foolish things, and been ruin'd at the long run; for who knows where this thing mought have ended? My unkell woulde have never seene me. My father too (his lordshipp, you have hearde, Madam, is a very crosse man, and never loved me much) mought have cutt off the intaile. My aunte would have dispis'd mee and scorn'd mee. I should have been her foolishe fellowe in earneste, nott in jeste, as now. You woulde have resented itt, and Mr. B. (who knows?) mought have called me to account.
"Butt cann you forgive me? You see how happy I am in my disappointment. I did nott think too write so much;—for I don't love it: but on this occasion, know not how too leave off. I hope you can read my letter. I know I write a clumsy hand, and spelle most lamentabelly; for I never had a tallent for these things. I was readier by half to admire the orcherd robbing picture in Lillie's grammar, then any other part of the book.
"But, hey, whether am I running! I never writt to you before, and never may again, unless you, or Mr. B. command it, for your service. So pray excuse me, Madam.
"I knowe I neede give no advice to Polley, to take care of first encouragements. Poor girl! she mought have suffer'd sadly, as welle as I. For iff my father, and my unkell and aunte, had requir'd mee to turne her off, you know itt woulde have been undutifull to have refused them, notwithstanding our bargaine. And want of duty to them woulde have been to have added faulte too faulte: as you once observed, I remember, that one faulte never comes alone, but drawes after itt generally five or six, to hide or vindicate itt, and they every one perhapps as many more eache.
"I shall never forgett severall of youre wise sayinges. I have been vex'd, may I be hang'd if I have not, many a time, thatt I coulde not make such observations as you make; who am so much older too, and a man besides, and a peere's son, and a peere's nephew! but my tallents lie another way; and by that time my father dies, I hope to improve myselfe, in order to cutt such a figure, as may make me be no disgrase to my name or countrey.
"Well, but whatt is all this to the purpose?—I will keep close to my text; and that is, to thank you, good Madam, for all the favours I have received in your house; to thank you for disappointing mee, and for convincing mee, in so kinde, yet so shameing a manner, how wrong I was in the matter of that there Polley; and for not exposing my folly to any boddy but myselfe (for I should have been ready to hang myselfe, if you hadd); and to beg youre pardon for itt, assuring you, that I will never offerr the like as long as I breathe. I am, Madam, with the greatest respecte, youre most obliged, moste faithful, and most obedient humbell servante, J.H.
"Pray excuse blotts and blurs."
Well, Miss Darnford, what shall we say to this fine letter?—You'll allow it to be an original, I hope. Yet, may-be not. For it may be as well written, and as sensible a letter as this class of people generally write!
Mr. H. dresses well, is not a contemptible figure of a man, laughs, talks, where he can be heard, and his aunt is not present; and cuts, to use his own word, a considerable figure in a country town.—But see—Yet I will not say what I might—He is Lord Davers's nephew; and if he makes his observations, and forbears his speeches (I mean, can be silent, and only laugh when he sees somebody of more sense laugh, and never approve or condemn but in leading-strings), he may possibly pass in a crowd of gentlemen. But poor, poor Polly Barlow! What can I say for Polly Barlow?
I have a time in view, when my papers may fall under the inspection of a dear gentleman, to whom, next to God, I am accountable for all my actions and correspondences; so I will either write an account of the matter, and seal it up separately, for Mr. B., or, at a fit opportunity, break it to him, and let him know (under secrecy, if he will promise it) the steps I took in it; lest something arise hereafter, when I cannot answer for myself, to render any thing dark or questionable in it. A method, I believe, very proper to be taken by every married lady; and I presume the rather to say so, having had a good example for it: for I have often thought of a little sealed up parcel of papers, my lady made me burn in her presence, about a month before she died. "They are, Pamela," said she, "such as would not concern me, let who will see them, could they know the springs and causes of them; but, for want of a clue, my son might be at a loss what to think of several of those letters were he to find them, in looking over my other papers, when I am no more."
Let me add, that nothing could be more endearing than our parting with our noble guests. My lady repeated her commands for what she often engaged me to promise, that is to say, to renew the correspondence begun between us, so much (as she was pleased to say) to her satisfaction.
I could not help shewing her ladyship, who was always enquiring after my writing employment, most of what passed between you and me: she admires you much, and wished Mr. H. had more wit, that was her word: she should in that case, she said, be very glad to set on foot a treaty between you and him.
But that, I fancy, can never be tolerable to you; and I only mention it en passant.—There's a French woman for you!
The countess was full of her kind wishes for my happiness; and my Lady Davers told me, that if I could give her timely notice, she would be present on a certain occasion.
But, my dear Miss, what could I say?—I know nothing of the matter!—Only, I am a sad coward, and have a thousand anxieties which I cannot mention to any body.
But, if I have such in the honourable estate of matrimony, what must those poor souls have, who are seduced, and have all manner of reason to apprehend, that the crime shall be followed by a punishment so natural to it? A punishment in kind, as I may say; which if it only ends in forfeiture of life, following the forfeiture of fame, must be thought merciful and happy beyond expectation: for how shall they lay claim to the hope given to persons in their circumstances that they shall be saved in child-bearing, since the condition is, if they CONTINUE in faith and charity, and HOLINESS with SOBRIETY.
Now, my honoured mother, and my dear Miss Darnford since I am upon this affecting subject, does not this text seem to give a comfortable hope to a good woman, who shall thus die, of being happy in the Divine mercies? For the Apostle, in the context, says, that he suffers not a woman to teach, nor usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.—And what is the reason he gives? Why, a reason that is a natural consequence of the curse on the first disobedience, that she shall be in subjection to her husband. "For," says he, "Adam was NOT deceived; but the woman, being deceived, was in the transgression." As much as to say—Had it not been for the woman, Adam had kept his integrity, and therefore her punishment shall be, as it is said, "I will greatly multiply thy sorrow in thy conception: in sorrow shall thou bring forth children—and thy husband shall rule over thee." But nevertheless, if thou shalt not survive the sharpness of thy sorrow, thy death shall be deemed to be such an alleviation of thy part of the entailed transgression, that thou shalt be saved, if thou hast CONTINUED in faith and charity, and HOLINESS with SOBRIETY.
This, my honoured parents, and my dear friend, is my paraphrase; and I reap no small comfort from it, when I meditate upon it.
But I shall make you as serious as myself; and, my dear friend, perhaps, frighten you from entering into a state, in which our poor sex suffer so much, from the bridal morning, let it rise as gaily as it will upon a thoughtful mind, to that affecting circumstance, (throughout its whole progression), for which nothing but a tender, a generous, and a worthy husband can make them any part of amends.
But a word or two more, as to the parting with our honoured company. I was a little indisposed, and they all would excuse me, against my will, from attending them in the coach some miles, which their dear brother did. Both ladies most tenderly saluted me, twice or thrice a-piece, folding their kind arms about me, and wishing my safety and health, and charging me to think little, and hope much; for they saw me thoughtful at times, though I endeavoured to hide it from them.
My Lord Davers said, with a goodness of temper that is peculiar to him, "My dearest sister,—May God preserve you, and multiply your comforts! I shall pray for you more than ever I did for myself, though I have so much more need of it:—I must leave you—But I leave one whom I love and honour next to Lady Davers, and ever shall."
Mr. H. looked consciously silly. "I can say nothing, Madam, but" (saluting me) "that I shall never forget your goodness to me."
I had before, in Mrs. Jervis's parlour, taken leave of Mrs. Worden and Mrs. Lesley, my ladies' women: they each stole a hand of mine, and kissed it, begging pardon for the freedom. But I answered, taking each by her hand, and kissing her, "I shall always think of you with pleasure, my good friends; for you have encouraged me constantly by your presence in my private duties; and may God bless you, and the worthy families you so laudably serve, as well for your sakes, as their own!"
They turned away with tears; and Mrs. Worden would have said something to me, but could not.—Only both taking Mrs. Jervis by the hand, "Happy Mrs. Jervis!" said they, almost in a breath. "And happy I too," repeated I, "in my Mrs. Jervis, and in such kind well-wishers as Mrs. Worden and Mrs. Lesley. Wear this, Mrs. Worden;—wear this, Mrs. Lesley, for my sake:" and to each I gave a ring, with a crystal and brilliants set about it, which Mr. B. had bought a week before for this purpose: he has a great opinion of both the good folks, and often praised their prudence, and quiet and respectful behaviour to every body, so different from the impertinence (that was his word) of most ladies' women who are favourites.
Mrs. Jervis said, "I have enjoyed many happy hours in your conversation, Mrs. Worden and Mrs. Lesley: I shall miss you very much."
"I must endeavour," said I, taking her hand, "to make it up to you, my good friend, as well as I can. And of late we have not had so many opportunities together as I should have wished, had I not been so agreeably engaged as you know. So we must each try to comfort the other, when we have lost, I such noble, and you such worthy companions."
Mrs. Jervis's honest heart, before touched by the parting, shewed itself at her eyes. "Wonder not," said I, to the two gentlewomen, wiping with my handkerchief her venerable cheeks, "that I always thus endeavour to dry up all my good Mrs. Jervis's tears;" and then I kissed her, thinking of you, my dear mother; and I was forced to withdraw a little abruptly, lest I should be too much moved myself; for had our departing company enquired into the occasion, they would perhaps have thought it derogatory (though I should not) to my present station, and too much retrospecting to my former.
I could not, in conversation between Mr. B. and myself, when I was gratefully expatiating upon the amiable characters of our noble guests, and of their behaviour and kindness to me, help observing, that I had little expected, from some hints which formerly dropt from Mr. B., to find my good Lord Davers so polite and so sensible a man.
"He is a very good-natured man," replied Mr. B. "I believe I might once or twice drop some disrespectful words of him. But it was the effect of passion at the time, and with a view to two or three points of his conduct in public life; for which I took the liberty to find fault with him, and received very unsatisfactory excuses. One of these, I remember, was in a conference between a committee of each house of parliament, in which he behaved in a way I could not wish from a man so nearly allied to me by marriage; for all he could talk of, was the dignity of their house, when the reason of the thing was strong with the other; and it fell to my lot to answer what he said; which I did with some asperity; and this occasioned a coolness between us for some time.
"But no man makes a better figure in private life than Lord Davers; especially now that my sister's good sense has got the better of her passions, and she can behave with tolerable decency towards him. For once, Pamela, it was not so: the violence of her spirit making him appear in a light too little advantageous either to his quality or merit. But now he improves upon me every time I see him.
"You know not, my dear, what a disgrace a haughty and passionate woman brings upon her husband, and upon herself too, in the eyes of her own sex, as well as ours. Nay, even those ladies, who would be as glad of dominion as she, if they might be permitted to exercise it, despise others who do, and the man most who suffers it.
"And let me tell you," said the dear man, with an air that shewed he was satisfied with his own conduct in this particular, "that you cannot imagine how much a woman owes to her husband, as well with regard to her own peace of mind, as to both their reputations (however it may go against the grain with her sometimes), if he be a man who has discretion to keep her encroaching passions under a genteel and reasonable control!"
How do you like this doctrine, Miss?—I'll warrant, you believe, that I could do no less than drop Mr. B. one of my best curt'sies, in acknowledgment of my obligation to him, for so considerately preserving to me my peace of mind, and my reputation, as well as his own, in this case.
But after all, when one duly weighs the matter, what he says may be right in the main; for I have not been able to contradict him, partial as I am to my sex, when he has pointed out to me instances in the behaviour of certain ladies, who, like children, the more they have been humoured, the more humoursome they have grown; which must have occasioned as great uneasiness to themselves, as to their husbands. Will you excuse me, my dear? This is between ourselves; for I did not own so much to Mr. B. For one should not give up one's sex, you know, if one can help it: for the men will be as apt to impose, as the women to encroach, I doubt.
Well, but here, my honest parents, and my dear Miss Darnford, at last, I end my journal-wise letters, as I may call them; our noble guests being gone, and our time and employments rolling on in much the same manner, as in past days, of which I have given an account. I am, my dearest father and mother, and best beloved Miss Darnford, your dutiful and affectionate
MY DEAR MISS DARNFORD,
I hear that Mrs. Jewkes is in no good state of health. I am very sorry for it. I pray for her life, that she may be a credit (if it please God) to the penitence she has so lately assumed.
Do, my dear good Miss, vouchsafe to the poor soul the honour of a visit: she may be low-spirited.—She may be too much sunk with the recollection of past things. Comfort, with that sweetness which is so natural to Miss Darnford, her drooping heart; and let her know, that I have a true concern for her, and give it her in charge to take care of herself, and spare nothing that will administer either to her health or peace of mind.
You'll pardon me that I put you upon an office so unsuitable from a lady in your station, to a person in hers; but not to your piety and charity, where a duty so eminent as that of visiting the sick, and cheering the doubting mind, is in the question.
I know your condescension will give her great comfort; and if she should be hastening to her account, what a pleasure will it give such a lady as you, to have illuminated a benighted mind, when it was tottering on the verge of death!
I know she will want no spiritual help from good Mr. Peters; but then the kind notice of so generally esteemed a young lady, will raise her more than can be imagined: for there is a tenderness, a sympathy, in the good persons of our sex to one another, that (while the best of the other seem but to act as in office, saying those things, which, though edifying and convincing, one is not certain proceeds not rather from the fortitude of their minds, than the tenderness of their natures) mingles with one's very spirits, thins the animal mass, and runs through one's heart in the same lify current (I can't clothe my thought suitably to express what I would), giving assurance, as well as pleasure, in the most arduous cases, and brightening our misty prospects, till we see the Sun of Righteousness rising on the hills of comfort, and dispelling the heavy fogs of doubt and diffidence.
This it is makes me wish and long as I do, for the company of my dear Miss Darnford. O when shall I see you? When shall I?—To speak to my present case, it is all I long for; and, pardon my freedom of expression, as well as thought, when I let you know in this instance, how early I experience the ardent longings of one in the way I am in.
But I ought not to set my heart upon any thing not in my own power, and which may be subject to accidents, and the control of others. But let whatever interventions happen, so I have your will to come, I must be rejoiced in your kind intention, although your power should not prove answerable.
But I will say no more, than that I am, my honoured father and mother, your ever dutiful daughter; and, my dear Miss Darnford, your affectionate and obliged P.B.
From Miss Darnford to Mrs. B.
MY DEAR MRS. B.,
We are greatly obliged to you for every particular article in your entertaining journal, which you have brought, sooner than we wished, to a conclusion. We cannot express how much we admire you for your judicious charities, so easy to be practised, yet so uncommon in the manner, and for your inimitable conduct in the affair of your frail Polly and the silly Mr. H.
Your account of the visit of the four rakes; of your parting with your noble guests; Mr. H.'s letter (an original indeed!) have all greatly entertained us, as your prerogative hints have amused us: but we defer our opinion of those hints, till we have the case more fully explained.
But, my dear friend, are you not in danger of falling into a too thoughtful and gloomy way? By the latter part of your last letter, we are afraid you are; and my mamma, and Mrs. Jones, and Mrs. Peters, enjoin me to write, to caution you on that head. But there is the less need of it, because your prudence will always suggest to you reasons, as it does in that very letter, that must out-balance your fears. Think little, and hope much, is a good lesson in your case, and to a lady of your temper; and I hope Lady Davers will not in vain have given you that caution. After all, I dare say your thoughtfulness is but symptomatical, and will go off in proper time.
But to wave this: let me ask you, is Mr. B.'s conduct to you as respectful, I don't mean fond, when you are alone together, as in company?—Forgive me—But you have hinted two or three times, in your letters, that he always is most complaisant to you in company; and you observe, that wisely does he act in this, as he thereby does credit with every body to his own choice. I make no doubt, that the many charming scenes which your genius and fine behaviour furnish out to him, must, as often as they happen, inspire him with joy, and even rapture: and must make him love you more for your mind than for your person:—but these rapturous scenes last very little longer than the present moment. What I want to know is, whether in the steadier parts of life, when you are both nearer the level of us common folks, he give up any thing of his own will in compliment to yours? Whether he acts the part of a respectful, polite gentleman, in his behaviour to you; and breaks not into your retirements, in the dress, and with the brutal roughness of a fox-hunter?—Making no difference, perhaps, between the field or his stud (I will not say kennel) and your chamber or closet?—Policy, for his own credit-sake, as I mentioned, accounts to me well, for his complaisance to you in public. But his regular and uniform behaviour to you, in your retirement, when the conversation between you turns upon usual and common subjects, and you have not obliged him to rise to admiration of you, by such scenes as those of your two parsons, Sir Jacob Swynford, and the like: is what would satisfy my curiosity, if you please to give me an instance or two of it.
Now, my dearest Mrs. B., if you can give me a case, partly or nearly thus circumstanced, you will highly oblige me:
First, where he has borne with any infirmity of your own; and I know of none where you can give him such an opportunity, except you get into a vapourish habit, by giving way to a temper too thoughtful and apprehensive:
Next, that, in complaisance to your will, he recedes from his own in any one instance:
Next, whether he breaks not into your retirements unceremoniously, and without apology or concern, as I hinted above.
You know, my dear Mrs. B., all I mean, by what I have said.; and if you have any pretty conversation in memory, by the recital of which, this my bold curiosity may be answered, pray oblige me with it; and we shall be able to judge by it, not only of the in-born generosity which all that know Mr. B. have been willing to attribute to him, but of the likelihood of the continuance of both your felicities, upon terms suitable to the characters of a fine lady and fine gentleman: and, of consequence, worthy of the imitation of the most delicate of our own sex.
Your obliging longings, my beloved dear lady, for my company, I hope, will very soon be answered. My papa was so pleased with your sweet earnestness on this occasion, that he joined with my mamma; and both, with equal cheerfulness, said, you should not be many days in London before me. Murray and his mistress go on swimmingly, and have not yet had one quarrel. The only person, he, of either sex, that ever knew Nancy so intimately, and so long, without one!
This is all I have to say, at present, when I have assured you, my dear Mrs. B., how much I am your obliged, and affectionate POLLY DARNFORD.
My dearest Miss Darnford,
I was afraid I ended my last letter in a gloomy way; and I am obliged to you for the kind and friendly notice you take of it. It was owing to a train of thinking which sometimes I get into, of late; I hope only symptomatically, as you say, and that the cause and effect will soon vanish together.
But what a task, my dear friend, I'll warrant, you think you have set me! I thought, in the progress of my journal, and in my letters, I had given so many instances of Mr. B.'s polite tenderness to me, that no new ones would be required at my hands; and when I said he was always most complaisant before company, I little expected, that such an inference would be drawn from my words, as would tend to question the uniformity of his behaviour to me, when there were no witnesses to it. But I am glad of an opportunity to clear up all your doubts on this subject.
To begin then:
You first desire an instance, where Mr. B. has borne with some infirmity of mine:
Next, that in complaisance to my will, he has receded from his own:
And lastly, whether he breaks not into my retirements unceremoniously; and without apology or concern, making no difference between the field or the stud, and my chamber or closet?
As to the first, his bearing with my infirmities; he is daily giving instances of his goodness to me on this head; and I am ashamed to say, that of late I give him so much occasion for them as I do; but he sees my apprehensiveness, at times, though I endeavour to conceal it; and no husband was ever so soothing and so indulgent as Mr. B. He gives me the best advice, as to my malady, if I may call it one: treats me with redoubled tenderness: talks to me upon the subjects I most delight to dwell upon: as of my worthy parents; what they are doing at this time, and at that; of our intended journey to London; of the diversions of the town; of Miss Darnford's company; and when he goes abroad, sends up my good Mrs. Jervis to me, because I should not be alone: at other times, takes me abroad with him, brings this neighbour and that neighbour to visit; and carries me to visit them; talks of our journey to Kent, and into Lincolnshire, and to my Lady Davers's, to Bath, to Tunbridge, and I can't tell whither, when the apprehended time shall be over.—In fine, my dear Miss Darnford, you cannot imagine one half of his tender goodness and politeness to me!—Then he hardly ever goes to any distance, but brings some pretty present he thinks will be grateful to me. When at home, he is seldom out of my company; delights to teach me French and Italian, and reads me pieces of manuscript poetry, in several of the modern tongues (for he speaks them all); explains to me every thing I understand not; delights to answer all my questions, and to encourage my inquisitiveness and curiosity, tries to give me a notion of pictures and medals, and reads me lectures upon them, for he has a fine collection of both; and every now and then will have it, that he has been improved by my questions and observations.
What say you to these things, my dear? Do they come up to your first question? or do they not? Or is not what I have said, a full answer, were I to say no more, to all your enquiries?
O my dear, I am thoroughly convinced, that half the misunderstandings, among married people, are owing to trifles, to petty distinctions, to mere words, and little captious follies, to over-weenings, or unguarded petulances: and who would forego the solid satisfaction of life, for the sake of triumphing in such poor contentions, if one could triumph?
But you next require of me an instance, where, in complaisance to my will, he has receded from his own? I don't know what to say to this. When Mr. B. is all tenderness and indulgence, and requires of me nothing, that I can have a material objection to, ought I not to oblige him? Can I have a will that is not his? Or would it be excusable if I had? All little matters I cheerfully give up: great ones have not yet occurred between us, and I hope never will. One point, indeed, I have some apprehension may happen; and that, to be plain with you, is, we have had a debate or two on the subject (which I maintain) of a mother's duty to nurse her own child; and I am sorry to say it, he seems more determined than I wish he were, against it.
I hope it will not proceed so far as to awaken the sleeping dragon I mentioned. Prerogative by name; but I doubt I cannot give up this point very contentedly. But as to lesser points, had I been a duchess born, I think I would not have contested them with my husband.
I could give you many respectful instances too, of his receding, when he has desired to see what I have been writing, and I have told him to whom, and begged to be excused. One such instance I can give since I began this letter. This is it:
I put it in my bosom, when he came up: he saw me do so:
"Are you writing, my dear, what I must not see?"
"I am writing to Miss Darnford, Sir: and she begged you might not at present."
"This augments my curiosity, Pamela. What can two such ladies write, that I may not see?"
"If you won't be displeased, Sir, I had rather you would not, because she desires you may not see her letter, nor this my answer, till the letter is in her hands."
"Then I will not," returned Mr. B.
Will this instance, my dear, come up to your demand for one, where he recedes from his own will, in complaisance to mine?
But now, as to what both our notions and our practice are on the article of my retirements, and whether he breaks in upon them unceremoniously, and without apology, let the conversation I promised inform you, which began on the following occasion.
Mr. B. rode out early one morning, within a few days past, and did not return till the afternoon; an absence I had not been used to of late; and breakfasting and dining without him being also a new thing with me, I had such an impatience to see him, having expected him at dinner, that I was forced to retire to my closet, to try to divert it, by writing; and the gloomy conclusion of my last was then the subject. He returned about four o'clock, and indeed did not tarry to change his riding-dress, as your politeness, my dear friend, would perhaps have expected; but came directly up to me, with an impatience to see me, equal to my own, when he was told, upon enquiry, that I was in my closet.
I heard his welcome step, as he came up stairs; which generally, after a longer absence than I expect, has such an effect upon my fond heart, that it gives a responsive throb for every step he takes towards me, and beats quicker and faster, as he comes nearer.
I met him at my closet door. "So, my dear love," says he, "how do you?" folding his kind arms about me, and saluting me with ardour. "Whenever I have been but a few hours from you, my impatience to see my beloved, will not permit me to stand upon the formality of a message to know how you are engaged; but I break in upon you, even in my riding-dress, as you see."
"Dear Sir, you are very obliging. But I have no notion of mere formalities of this kind"—(How unpolite this, my dear, in your friend?)—"in a married state, since 'tis impossible a virtuous wife can be employed about any thing that her husband may not know, and so need not fear surprises."
"I am glad to hear you say this, my Pamela; for I have always thought the extraordinary civilities and distances of this kind which I have observed among several persons of rank, altogether unaccountable. For if they are exacted by the lady, I should suspect she had reserves, which she herself believed I could not approve. If not exacted, but practised of choice by the gentleman, it carries with it, in my opinion, a false air of politeness, little less than affrontive to the lady, and dishonourable to himself; for does it not look as if he supposed, and allowed, that she might be so employed that it was necessary to apprise her of his visit, lest he should make discoveries not to her credit or his own?"
"One would not, Sir" (for I thought his conclusion too severe), "make such a harsh supposition as this neither: for there are little delicacies and moments of retirement, no doubt, in which a modest lady would wish to be indulged by the tenderest husband."
"It may be so in an early matrimony, before the lady's confidence in the honour and discretion of the man she has chosen has disengaged her from her bridal reserves."
"Bridal reserves, dear Sir! permit me to give it as my humble opinion, that a wife's behaviour ought to be as pure and circumspect, in degree, as that of a bride, or even of a maiden lady, be her confidence in her husband's honour and discretion ever so great. For, indeed, I think a gross or a careless demeanour little becomes that modesty which is the peculiar excellency and distinction of our sex."
"You account very well, my dear, by what you now say for your own over-nice behaviour, as I have sometimes thought it. But are we not all apt to argue for a practice we make our own, because we do make it our own, rather than from the reason of the thing?"
"I hope, Sir, that is not the present case with me; for, permit me to say, that an over-free or negligent behaviour of a lady in the married state, must be a mark of disrespect to her consort, and would shew as if she was very little solicitous about what appearance she made in his eye. And must not this beget in him a slight opinion of her sex too, as if, supposing the gentleman had been a free liver, she would convince him there was no other difference in the sex, but as they were within or without the pale, licensed by the law, or acting in defiance of it?"
"I understand the force of your argument, Pamela. But you were going to say something more."
"Only, Sir, permit me to add, that when, in my particular case, you enjoin me to appear before you always dressed, even in the early part of the day, it would be wrong, if I was less regardful of my behaviour and actions, than of my appearance."
"I believe you are right, my dear, if a precise or unnecessary scrupulousness be avoided, and where all is unaffected, easy, and natural, as in my Pamela. For I have seen married ladies, both in England and France, who have kept a husband at a greater distance than they have exacted from some of his sex, who have been more entitled to his resentment, than to his wife's intimacies.
"But to wave a subject, in which, as I can with pleasure say, neither of us have much concern, tell me, my dearest, how you were employed before I came up? Here are pen and ink: here, too, is paper, but it is as spotless as your mind. To whom were you directing your favours now? May I not know your subject?"
Mr. H.'s letter was a part of it; and so I had put it by, at his approach, and not choosing he should see that—"I am writing," replied I, "to Miss Darnford: but I think you must not ask me to see what I have written this time. I put it aside that you should not, when I heard your welcome step. The subject is our parting with our noble guests; and a little of my apprehensiveness, on an occasion upon which our sex may write to one another; but, for some of the reasons we have been mentioning, gentlemen should not desire to see."
"Then I will not, my dearest love." (So here, my dear, is another instance—I could give you an hundred such—of his receding from his own will, in complaisance to mine.) "Only," continued he, "let me warn you against too much apprehensiveness, for your own sake, as well as mine; for such a mind as my Pamela's I cannot permit to be habitually over-clouded. And yet there now hangs upon your brow an over-thoughtfulness, which you must not indulge."
"Indeed, Sir, I was a little too thoughtful, from my subject, before you came; but your presence, like the sun, has dissipated the mists that hung upon my mind. See you not," and I pressed his hand with my lips, "they are all gone already?" smiling upon him with a delight unfeigned.
"Not quite, my dearest Pamela; and therefore, if you have no objection, I will change my dress, and attend you in the chariot for an hour or two, whither you please, that not one shadow may remain visible in this dear face;" tenderly saluting me.
"Whithersoever you please, Sir. A little airing with you will be highly agreeable to me."
The dear obliger went and changed his dress in an instant; and he led me to the chariot, with his usual tender politeness, and we had a charming airing of several miles; returning quite happy, cheerful, and delighted with each other's conversation, without calling in upon any of our good neighbours: for what need of that, my dear, when we could be the best company in the world to each other?
Do these instances come up to your questions, my dear? or, do they not?—If you think not, I could give you our conversation in the chariot: for I wrote it down at my first leisure, so highly was I delighted with it; for the subject was my dearest parents; a subject started by himself, because he knew it would oblige me. But being tired with writing, I may reserve it, till I have the pleasure of seeing you, if you think it worth asking for. And so I will hasten to a conclusion of this long letter.
I have only farther to add, for my comfort, that next Thursday se'n-night, if nothing hinders, we are to set out for London. And why do you think I say for my comfort? Only that I shall then soon have the opportunity, to assure you personally, as you give me hope, how much I am, my dear Miss Darnford, your truly affectionate. P.B.
My dear Miss Darnford,
One more letter, and I have done for a great while, because I hope your presence will put an end to the occasion. I shall now tell you of my second visit to the dairy-house, where we went to breakfast, in the chariot and four, because of the distance, which is ten pretty long miles.
I transcribed for you, from letters written formerly to my dear parents, an account of my former dairy-house visit, and what the people were, and whom I saw there; and although I besought you to keep that affair to yourself, as too much affecting the reputation of my Mr. B. to be known any farther, and even to destroy that account, when you had perused it; yet, I make no doubt, you remember the story, and so I need not repeat any part of it.
When we arrived there, we found at the door, expecting us (for they heard the chariot-wheels at a distance), my pretty Miss Goodwin, and two other Misses, who had earned their ride, attended by the governess's daughter, a discreet young gentlewoman. As soon as I stepped out, the child ran into my arms with great eagerness, and I as tenderly embraced her, and leading her into the parlour, asked her abundance of questions about her work, and her lessons; and among the rest if she had merited this distinction of the chaise and dairy-house breakfast, or if it was owing to her uncle's favour, and to that of her governess? The young gentlewoman assured me it was to both, and shewed me her needleworks, and penmanship; and the child was highly pleased with my commendations.
I took a good deal of notice of the other two Misses, for their school-fellow's sake, and made each of them a present of some little toys; and my Miss, of a number of pretty trinkets, with which she was highly delighted; and I told her, that I would wait upon her governess, when I came from London into the country again, and see in what order she kept her little matters; for, above all things, I love pretty house-wifely Misses; and then, I would bring her more.
Mr. B. observed, with no small satisfaction, the child's behaviour, which is very pretty; and appeared as fond of her, as if he had been more than her uncle, and yet seemed under some restraint, lest it should be taken, that he was more. Such power has secret guilt, poor gentleman! to lessen and restrain a pleasure, that would, in a happier light, have been so laudable to have manifested!
I am going to let you into a charming scene, resulting from this perplexity of the dear gentleman. A scene that has afforded me high delight ever since; and always will, when I think of it.
The child was very fond of her uncle, and told him she loved him dearly, and always would love and honour him, for giving her such a good aunt. "You talked, Madam," said she, "when I saw you before, that I should come and live with you—Will you let me, Madam? Indeed I will be very good, and do every thing you bid me, and mind my book, and my needle; indeed I will."
"Ask your uncle, my dear," said I; "I should like your pretty company of all things."
She went to Mr. B. and said, "Shall I, Sir, go and live with my aunt?—Pray let me, when you come from London again."
"You have a very good governess, child," said he; "and she can't part with you."
"Yes, but she can. Sir; she has a great many Misses, and can spare me well enough; and if you please to let me ride in your coach sometimes, I can go and visit my governess, and beg a holiday for the Misses, now-and-then, when I am almost a woman, and then all the Misses will love me."
"Don't the Misses love you now, Miss Goodwin?" said he.
"Yes, they love me well enough, for matter of that; but they'll love me better, when I can beg them a holiday. Do, dear Sir, let me go home to my new aunt, next time you come into the country."
I was much pleased with the dear child's earnestness; and permitted her to have her full argument with her beloved uncle; but was much moved, and he himself was under some concern, when she said, "But you should, in pity, let me live with you, Sir, for I have no papa, nor mamma neither: they are so far off!—But I will love you both as if you were my own papa and mamma; so, dear now, my good uncle, promise the poor girl that has never a papa nor mamma!"
I withdrew to the door: "It will rain, I believe," said I, and looked up. And, indeed, I had almost a shower in my eye: and had I kept my place, could not have refrained shewing how much I was affected.
Mr. B., as I said, was a little moved; but for fear the young gentlewoman should take notice of it—"How! my dear," said he, "no papa and mamma!—Did they not send you a pretty black boy to wait upon you, a while ago? Have you forgot that?"—"That's true," replied she: "but what's a black boy to living with my new aunt?—That's better a great deal than a black boy!"
"Well, your aunt and I will consider of it, when we come from London. Be a good girl, meantime, and do as your governess would have you, and then you don't know what we may do for you."
"Well then, Miss," said she to her young governess, "let me be set two tasks instead of one, and I will learn all I can to deserve to go to my aunt."
In this manner the little prattler diverted herself. And as we returned from them, the scene I hinted at, opened as follows:
Mr. B. was pleased to say, "What a poor figure does the proudest man make, my dear Pamela, under the sense of a concealed guilt, in company of the innocent who know it, and even of those who do not!—Since the casual expression of a baby shall overwhelm him with shame, and make him unable to look up without confusion. I blushed for myself," continued he, "to see how you were affected for me, and yet withdrew, to avoid reproaching me so much as with a look. Surely, Pamela, I must then make a most contemptible appearance in your eye! Did you not disdain me at that moment?"
"Dearest Sir! how can you speak such a word? A word I cannot repeat after you! For at that very time, I beheld you with the more reverence, for seeing your noble heart touched with a sense of your error; and it was such an earnest to me of the happiest change I could ever wish for, and in so young a gentleman, that it was one half joy for that, and the other half concern at the little charmer's accidental plea, to her best and nearest friend, for coming home to her new aunt, that affected me so sensibly as you saw."
"You must not talk to me of the child's coming home, after this visit, Pamela; for how, at this rate, shall I stand the reproaches of my own mind, when I see the little prater every day before me, and think of what her poor mamma has suffered on my account! 'Tis enough, that in you, my dear, I have an hourly reproach before me, for my attempts on your virtue; and I have nothing to boast of, but that I gave way to the triumphs of your innocence: and what then is my boast?"
"What is your boast, dearest Sir? You have everything to boast, that is worthy of being boasted of.
"You are the best of husbands, the best of landlords, the best of masters, the best of friends; and, with all these excellencies, and a mind, as I hope, continually improving, and more and more affected with the sense of its past mistakes, will you ask, dear Sir, what is your boast?
"O my dearest, dear Mr. B.," and then I pressed his hands with my lips, "whatever you are to yourself, when you give way to reflections so hopeful, you are the glory and the boast of your grateful Pamela! And permit me to add," tears standing in my eyes, and holding his hand between mine, "that I never beheld you in my life, in a more amiable light, than when I saw that noble consciousness which you speak of, manifest itself in your eyes, and your countenance—O Sir! this was a sight of joy, of true joy! to one who loves you for your dear soul's sake, as well as for that of your person; and who looks forward to a companionship with you beyond the term of this transitory life."
Putting my arms round his arms, as I sat, my fearful eye watching his, "I fear. Sir, I have been too serious! I have, perhaps, broken one of your injunctions! Have cast a gloominess over your mind! And if I have, dear Sir, forgive me!"
He clasped his arms around me: "O my beloved Pamela," said he; "thou dear confirmer of all my better purposes! How shall I acknowledge your inexpressible goodness to me? I see every day more and more, my dear love, what confidence I may repose in your generosity and discretion! You want no forgiveness; and my silence was owing to much better motives than to those you were apprehensive of."
He saw my grateful transport, and kindly said, "Struggle not, my beloved Pamela, for words to express sentiments which your eyes and your countenance much more significantly express than any words can do. Every day produces new instances of your affectionate concern for my future as well as present happiness: and I will endeavour to confirm to you all the hopes which the present occasion has given you of me, and which I see by these transporting effects are so desirable to you."