THE Captain’s operations are begun — and, I hope, ended; for, indeed, poor Madame Duval has already but too much reason to regret Sir Clement’s visit to Howard Grove.
Yesterday morning, during breakfast, as the Captain was reading the newspaper, Sir Clement suddenly begged to look at it, saying, he wanted to know if there was any account of a transaction, at which he had been present the evening before his journey hither, concerning a poor Frenchman, who had got into a scrape which might cost him his life.
The Captain demanded particulars; and then Sir Clement told a long story of being with a party of country friends at the Tower, and hearing a man call out for mercy in French; and that, when he inquired into the occasion of his distress, he was informed that he had been taken up upon suspicion of treasonable practices against the government. “The poor fellow,” continued he, “no sooner found that I spoke French, than he besought me to hear him, protesting that he had no evil designs; that he had been but a short time in England, and only waited the return of a lady from the country to quit it for ever.”
Madame Duval changed colour, and listened with the utmost attention.
“Now, though I by no means approve of so many foreigners continually flocking into our country,” added he, addressing himself to the Captain, “yet I could not help pitying the poor wretch, because he did not know enough of English to make his defence; however, I found it impossible to assist him; for the mob would not suffer me to interfere. In truth, I am afraid he was but roughly handled.”
“Why, did they duck him?” said the Captain.
“Something of that sort,” answered he.
“So much the better! so much the better!” cried the Captain, “an impudent French puppy! I’ll bet you what you will he was a rascal. I only wish all his countrymen were served the same.”
“I wish you had been in his place, with all my soul!” cried Madame Duval, warmly; —“but pray, Sir, did’n’t nobody know who this poor gentleman was?”
“Why I did hear his name,” answered Sir Clement, “but I cannot recollect it.”
“It wasn’t — it wasn’t — Du Bois?” stammered out Madame Duval.
“The very name!” answered he: “yes, Du Bois, I remember it now.”
Madame Duval’s cup fell from her hand, as she repeated “Du Bois! Monsieur Du Bois, did you say?”
“Du Bois! why, that’s my friend,” cried the Captain, “that’s Monseer Slippery, i’n’t it? — Why, he’s plaguy fond of sousing work; howsomever, I’ll be sworn they gave him his fill of it.”
“And I’ll be sworn,” cried Madame Duval, “that you’re a — but I don’t believe nothing about it, so you needn’t be so overjoyed, for I dare say it was no more Monsieur Du Bois than I am.”
“I thought at the time,” said Sir Clement, very gravely, “that I had seen the gentleman before; and now I recollect, I think it was in company with you, Madame.”
“With me, Sir?” cried Madame Duval.
“Say you so?” said the Captain; “why then it must be he, as sure as you’re alive! — Well, but, my good friend, what will they do with poor Monseer?”
“It is difficult to say,” answered Sir Clement, very thoughtfully; “but I should suppose, that if he has not good friends to appear for him, he will be in a very unpleasant situation; for these are serious sorts of affairs.”
“Why, do you think they’ll hang him?” demanded the Captain.
Sir Clement shook his head, but made no answer.
Madame Duval could no longer contain her agitation; she started from her chair, repeating, with a voice half-choked, “Hang him! — they can’t — they sha’n’t — let them at their peril! — However, it’s all false, and I won’t believe a word of it; — but I’ll go to town this very moment, and see M. Du Bois myself; — I won’t wait for nothing.”
Mrs. Mirvan begged her not to be alarmed; but she flew out of the room, and up stairs into her own apartment. Lady Howard blamed both the gentlemen for having been so abrupt, and followed her. I would have accompanied her, but the Captain stopped me; and, having first laughed very heartily, said he was going to read his commission to his ship’s company.
“Now, do you see,” said he, “as to Lady Howard, I sha’n’t pretend for to enlist her into my service, and so I shall e’en leave her to make it out as well as she can; but as to all you, I expect obedience and submission to orders; I am now upon a hazardous expedition, having undertaken to convoy a crazy vessel to the shore of Mortification; so, d’ye see, if any of you have anything to propose that will forward the enterprise — why speak and welcome; but if any of you, that are of my chosen crew, capitulate, or enter into any treaty with the enemy — I shall look upon you as mutinying, and turn you adrift.”
Having finished this harangue, which was interlarded with many expressions, and sea-phrases, that I cannot recollect, he gave Sir Clement a wink of intelligence, and left us to ourselves.
Indeed, notwithstanding the attempts I so frequently make of writing some of the Captain’s conversation, I can only give you a faint idea of his language; for almost every other word he utters is accompanied by an oath, which, I am sure, would be as unpleasant for you to read, as for me to write: and, besides, he makes use of a thousand sea-terms, which are to me quite unintelligible.
Poor Madame Duval sent to inquire at all probable places, whether she could be conveyed to town in any stage-coach: but the Captain’s servant brought her for answer, that no London stage would pass near Howard Grove till today. She then sent to order a chaise; but was soon assured, that no horses could be procured. She was so much inflamed by these disappointments, that she threatened to set out for town on foot; and it was with difficulty that Lady Howard dissuaded her from this mad scheme.
The whole morning was filled up with these inquiries. But when we were all assembled to dinner, she endeavoured to appear perfectly unconcerned, and repeatedly protested that she gave not any credit to the report, as far as it regarded M. Du Bois, being very certain that he was not the person in question.
The Captain used the most provoking efforts to convince her that she deceived herself; while Sir Clement, with more art, though not less malice, affected to be of her opinion; but, at the same time that he pretended to relieve her uneasiness, by saying that he doubted not having mistaken the name, he took care to enlarge upon the danger to which the unknown gentleman was exposed, and expressed great concern at his perilous situation.
Dinner was hardly removed, when a letter was delivered to Madam Duval. The moment she had read it, she hastily demanded from whom it came.
“A country boy brought it,” answered the servant,” but he would not wait.”
“Run after him this instant!” cried she, “and be sure you bring him back. Mon Dieu! quelle aventure! que feraije?”
“What’s the matter? what’s the matter?” said the Captain.
“Why nothing — nothing’s the matter. O mon Dieu!”
And she rose, and walked about the room.
“Why, what — has Monseer sent to you?” continued the Captain: “is that there letter from him?”
“No — it i’n’t; — besides, if it is, it’s nothing to you.”
“O then, I’m sure it is! Pray now, Madam, don’t be so close; come tell us all about it — what does he say? how did he relish the horse-pond? — which did he find best, sousing single or double? ‘Fore George, ’twas plaguy unlucky you was not with him!”
“It’s no such a thing, Sir,” cried she, very angrily; “and if you’re so very fond of a horse-pond, I wish you’d put yourself into one, and not be always a thinking about other people’s being served so.”
The man then came in to acquaint her they could not overtake the boy. She scolded violently, and was in such perturbation, that Lady Howard interfered, and begged to know the cause of her uneasiness, and whether she could assist her.
Madame Duval cast her eyes upon the Captain and Sir Clement, and said she should be glad to speak to her Ladyship without so many witnesses.
“Well, then, Miss Anville,” said the Captain, turning to me, “do you and Molly go into another room, and stay there till Mrs. Duval has opened her mind to us.”
“So you may think, Sir,” cried she, “but who’s fool then? no, no, you needn’t trouble yourself to make a ninny of me neither, for I’m not so easily taken in, I’ll assure you.”
Lady Howard then invited her into the dressing-room, and I was desired to attend her.
As soon as we had shut the door, “O my Lady,” exclaimed Madam Duval, “here’s the most cruelest thing in the world has happened! — but that Captain is such a beast, I can’t say nothing before him — but it’s all true! poor M. Du Bois is tooked up!”
Lady Howard begged her to be comforted, saying that, as M. Du Bois was certainly innocent, there could be no doubt of his ability to clear himself.
“To be sure, my Lady,” answered she, “I know he is innocent; and to be sure they’ll never be so wicked as to hang him for nothing?”
“Certainly not,” replied Lady Howard; “you have no reason to be uneasy. This is not a country where punishment is inflicted without proof.”
“Very true, my Lady: but the worst thing is this; I cannot bear that that fellow the Captain should know about it; for if he does, I sha’n’t never hear the last of it; — no more won’t poor M. Du Bois.”
“Well, well,” said Lady Howard, “shew me the letter, and I will endeavour to advise you.”
The letter was then produced. It was signed by the clerk of a country justice; who acquainted her, that a prisoner, then upon trial for suspicion of treasonable practices against the government, was just upon the point of being committed to jail; but having declared that he was known to her, this clerk had been prevailed upon to write, in order to enquire if she really could speak to the character and family of a Frenchman who called himself Pierre Du Bois.
When I heard the letter, I was quite amazed at its success. So improbable did it seem, that a foreigner should be taken before a country justice of peace, for a crime of so dangerous a nature, that I cannot imagine how Madame Duval could be alarmed, even for a moment. But, with all her violence of temper, I see that she is easily frightened, and in fact, more cowardly than many who have not half her spirit; and so little does she reflect upon circumstances, or probability, that she is continually the dupe of her own — I ought not to say ignorance, but yet I can think of no other word.
I believe that Lady Howard, from the beginning of the transaction, suspected some contrivance of the Captain; and this letter, I am sure, must confirm her suspicion: however, though she is not at all pleased with his frolic, yet she would not hazard the consequence of discovering his designs: her looks, her manner, and her character, made me draw this conclusion from her apparent perplexity; for not a word did she say that implied any doubt of the authenticity of the letter. Indeed there seems to be a sort of tacit agreement between her and the Captain, that she should not appear to be acquainted with his schemes; by which means she at once avoids quarrels, and supports her dignity.
While she was considering what to propose, Madame Duval begged to have the use of her Ladyship’s chariot, that she might go immediately to the assistance of her friend. Lady Howard politely assured her, that it should be extremely at her service; and then Madame Duval besought her not to own to the Captain what had happened, protesting that she could not endure he should know poor M. Du Bois had met with so unfortunate an accident. Lady Howard could not help smiling, though she readily promised not to inform the Captain of the affair. As to me, she desired my attendance; which I was by no means rejoiced at, as I was certain that she was going upon a fruitless errand.
I was then commissioned to order the chariot.
At the foot of the stairs I met the Captain, who was most impatiently waiting the result of the conference. In an instant we were joined by Sir Clement. A thousand inquiries were then made concerning Madame Duval’s opinion of the letter, and her intentions upon it: and when I would have left them, Sir Clement, pretending equal eagerness with the Captain, caught my hand, and repeatedly detained me, to ask some frivolous question, to the answer of which he must be totally indifferent. At length, however, I broke from them; they retired into the parlour, and I executed my commission.
The carriage was soon ready; and Madame Duval, having begged Lady Howard to say she was not well, stole softly down stairs, desiring me to follow her. The chariot was ordered at the garden-door; and, when we were seated, she told the man, according to the clerk’s directions, to drive to Mr. Justice Tyrell’s, asking at the same time, how many miles off he lived?
I expected he would have answered, that he knew of no such person; but, to my great surprise, he said, “Why, ‘Squire Tyrell lives about nine miles beyond the park.”
“Drive fast, then,” cried she, “and you sha’n’t be no worse for it.”
During our ride, which was extremely tedious, she tormented herself with a thousand fears for M. Du Bois’s safety; and piqued herself very much upon having escaped unseen by the Captain, not only that she avoided his triumph, but because she knew him to be so much M. Du Bois’s enemy, that she was sure he would prejudice the justice against him, and endeavour to take away his life. For my part, I was quite ashamed of being engaged in so ridiculous an affair, and could only think of the absurd appearance we should make upon our arrival at Mr. Tyrell’s.
When we had been out near two hours, and expected every moment to stop at the place of our destination, I observed that Lady Howard’s servant, who attended us on horseback, rode on forward till he was out of sight: and soon after returning, came up to the chariot window, and delivering a note to Madame Duval, said he had met a boy who was just coming with it to Howard Grove from the clerk of Mr. Tyrell.
While she was reading it, he rode round to the other window, and making a sign for secrecy, put into my hand a slip of paper, on which was written, “Whatever happens, be not alarmed — for you are safe — though you endanger all mankind!”
I readily imagined that Sir Clement must be the author of this note, which prepared me to expect some disagreeable adventure: but I had no time to ponder upon it; for Madame Duval had no sooner read her own letter, than, in an angry tone of voice, she exclaimed, “Why, now, what a thing is this! here we’re come all this way for nothing!”
She gave me the note; which informed her, that she need not trouble herself to go to Mr. Tyrell’s, as the prisoner had had the address to escape. I congratulated her upon this fortunate incident; but she was so much concerned at having rode so far in vain, that she seemed to be less pleased than provoked. However, she ordered the man to make what haste he could home, as she hoped, at least, to return before the Captain should suspect what had passed.
The carriage turned about; and we journeyed so quietly for near an hour, that I began to flatter myself we should be suffered to proceed to Howard Grove without any molestation, when suddenly, the footman called out, “John, are we going right?”
“Why, I a’n’t sure,” said the coachman, “But I’m afraid we turned wrong.”
“What do you mean by that, sirrah?” said Madame Duval; “why, if you lose your way, we shall all be in the dark.”
“I think we should turn to the left,” said the footman.
“To the left!” answered the other; “No, no, I’m partly sure we should turn to the right.”
“You had better make some enquiry,” said I.
“Ma foi!” cried Madame Duval, “we’re in a fine hole here! — they neither of them know no more than the post. However, I’ll tell my Lady as sure as you’re born, you’d better find the way.”
“Let’s try this lane,” said the footman.
“No,” said the coachman, “that’s the road to Canterbury; we had best go straight on.”
“Why, that’s the direct London road,” returned the footman, “and will lead us twenty miles about.”
“Pardi,” cried Madame Duval, “why, they won’t go one way nor t’other! and now we’re come all this jaunt for nothing, I suppose we shan’t get home to-night!”
“Let’s go back to the public-house,” said the footman, “and ask for a guide.”
“No, no,” said the other, “if we stay here a few minutes, somebody or other will pass by; and the horses are almost knocked up already.”
“Well, I protest,” cried Madame Duval, “I’d give a guinea to see them sots both horse-whipped! As sure as I’m alive they’re drunk! Ten to one but they’ll overturn us next.”
After much debating, they at length agreed to go on till we came to some inn, or met with a passenger who could direct us. We soon arrived at a farm-house, and the footman alighted, and went into it.
In a few minutes he returned, and told us we might proceed, for that he had procured a direction: “But,” added he, “it seems there are some thieves hereabouts; and so the best way will be for you to leave your watches and your purses with the farmer, whom I know very well, and who is an honest man, and a tenant of my Lady’s.”
“Thieves!” cried Madame Duval, looking aghast; “the Lord help us! — I’ve no doubt but we shall be all murdered!”
The farmer came up to us, and we gave him all we were worth, and the servants followed our example. We then proceeded; and Madame Duval’s anger so entirely subsided, that, in the mildest manner imaginable, she intreated them to make haste, and promised to tell their Lady how diligent and obliging they had been. She perpetually stopped them, to ask if they apprehended any danger; and was at length so much overpowered by her fears, that she made the footman fasten his horse to the back of the carriage, and then come and seat himself within it. My endeavours to encourage her were fruitless: she sat in the middle, held the man by the arm, and protested that if he did but save her life, she would make his fortune. Her uneasiness gave me much concern, and it was with the utmost difficulty I forbore to acquaint her that she was imposed upon; but the mutual fear of the Captain’s resentment to me, and of her own to him, neither of which would have any moderation, deterred me. As to the footman, he was evidently in torture from restraining his laughter; and I observed that he was frequently obliged to make most horrid grimaces, from pretended fear, in order to conceal his risibility.
Very soon after, “The robbers are coming!” cried the coachman.
The footman opened the door, and jumped out of the chariot.
Madame Duval gave a loud scream.
I could no longer preserve my silence. “For Heaven’s sake, my dear Madame,” said I, “don’t be alarmed — you are in no danger — you are quite safe — there is nothing but —”
Here the chariot was stopped by two men in masks; who at each side put in their hands as if for our purses. Madame Duval sunk to the bottom of the chariot, and implored their mercy. I shrieked involuntarily, although prepared for the attack: one of them held me fast, while the other tore poor Madame Duval out of the carriage, in spite of her cries, threats, and resistance.
I was really frightened, and trembled exceedingly. “My angel!” cried the man who held me, “you cannot surely be alarmed — do you not know me? — I shall hold myself in eternal abhorrence, if I have really terrified you.”
“Indeed, Sir Clement, you have,” cried I:—“but, for Heaven’s sake, where is Madame Duval? — why is she forced away?”
“She is perfectly safe; the Captain has her in charge: but suffer me now, my adored Miss Anville, to take the only opportunity that is allowed me, to speak upon another, a much dearer, much sweeter subject.”
And then he hastily came into the chariot, and seated himself next to me. I would fain have disengaged myself from him, but he would not let me: “Deny me not, most charming of women,” cried he, “deny me not this only moment that is lent me, to pour forth my soul into your gentle ears — to tell you how much I suffer from your absence — how much I dread your displeasure — and how cruelly I am affected by your coldness!”
“O, Sir, this is no time for such language; — pray leave me, pray go to the relief of Madame Duval — I cannot bear that she should be treated with such indignity.”
“And will you — can you command my absence? — When may I speak to you, if not now? — Does the Captain suffer me to breathe a moment out of his sight? — and are not a thousand impertinent people for ever at your elbow?”
“Indeed, Sir Clement, you must change your style, or I will not hear you. The impertinent people you mean are among my best friends; and you would not, if you really wished me well, speak of them so disrespectfully.”
“Wish you well! — O, Miss Anville, point but out to me how, in what manner, I may convince you of the fervour of my passion; — tell me but what services you will accept from me — and you shall find my life, my fortune, my whole soul at your devotion.”
“I want nothing, Sir, that you can offer; — I beg you not to talk to me so — so strangely. Pray leave me; and pray assure yourself you cannot take any method so successless to show any regard for me, as entering into schemes so frightful to Madame Duval, and so disagreeable to myself.”
“The scheme was the Captain’s: I even opposed it: though, I own, I could not refuse myself the so-long-wished-for happiness of speaking to you once more, without so many of — your friends to watch me. And I had flattered myself, that the note I charged the footman to give you, would have prevented the alarm you have received.”
“Well Sir, you have now, I hope, said enough; and, if you will not go yourself to see for Madame Duval, at least suffer me to inquire what is become of her.”
“And when may I speak to you again?”
“No matter when — I don’t know — perhaps —”
“Perhaps what, my angel?”
“Perhaps never, Sir — if you torment me thus.”
“Never! O, Miss Anville, how cruel, how piercing to my soul is that icy word! — Indeed I cannot endure such displeasure.”
“Then, Sir, you must not provoke it. Pray leave me directly.”
“I will Madam: but let me, at least, make a merit of my obedience — allow me to hope that you will, in future, be less averse to trusting yourself for a few moments alone with me”
I was surprised at the freedom of this request: but, while I hesitated how to answer it, the other mask came up to the chariot-door, and, in a voice almost stifled with laughter said, “I’ve done for her! — the old buck is safe; — but we must sheer off directly, or we shall be all ground.”
Sir Clement instantly left me, mounted his horse, and rode off. The Captain having given some directions to the servants, followed him.
I was both uneasy and impatient to know the fate of Madame Duval, and immediately got out of the chariot to seek her. I desired the footman to show me which way she was gone; he pointed with his finger by way of answer, and I saw that he dared not trust his voice to make any other. I walked on at a very quick pace, and soon, to my great consternation, perceived the poor lady seated upright in a ditch. I flew to her with unfeigned concern at her situation. She was sobbing, nay, almost roaring, and in the utmost agony of rage and terror. As soon as she saw me, she redoubled her cries; but her voice was so broken, I could not understand a word she said. I was so much shocked, that it was with difficulty I forebore exclaiming against the cruelty of the Captain for thus wantonly ill-treating her; and I could not forgive myself for having passively suffered the deception. I used my utmost endeavours to comfort her, assuring her of our present safety, and begging her to rise and return to the chariot.
Almost bursting with passion, she pointed to her feet, and with frightful violence she actually tore the ground with her hands.
I then saw that her feet were tied together with a strong rope, which was fastened to the upper branch of a tree, even with a hedge which ran along the ditch where she sat. I endeavoured to untie the knot; but soon found it was infinitely beyond my strength. I was, therefore, obliged to apply to the footman; but, being very unwilling to add to his mirth by the sight of Madame Duval’s situation. I desired him to lend me a knife: I returned with it, and cut the rope. Her feet were soon disentangled; and then, though with great difficulty, I assisted her to rise. But what was my astonishment, when, the moment she was up, she hit me a violent slap on the face! I retreated from her with precipitation and dread: and she then loaded me with reproaches, which, though almost unintelligible, convinced me that she imagined I had voluntarily deserted her; but she seemed not to have the slightest suspicion that she had not been attacked by real robbers.
I was so much surprised and confounded at the blow, that, for some time, I suffered her to rave without making any answer; but her extreme agitation, and real suffering, soon dispelled my anger, which all turned into compassion. I then told her, that I had been forcibly detained from following her, and assured her of my real sorrow of her ill-usage.
She began to be somewhat appeased; and I again intreated her to return to the carriage, or give me leave to order that it should draw up to the place where we stood. She made no answer, till I told her, that the longer we remained still, the greater would be the danger of our ride home. Struck with this hint, she suddenly, and with hasty steps, moved forward.
Her dress was in such disorder, that I was quite sorry to have her figure exposed to the servants, who all of them, in imitation of her master, hold her in derision: however the disgrace was unavoidable.
The ditch, happily, was almost quite dry, or she must have suffered still more seriously; yet so forlorn, so miserable a figure, I never before saw her. Her head-dress had fallen off, her linen was torn, her negligee had not a pin left in it, her petticoats she was obliged to hold on, and her shoes were perpetually slipping off. She was covered with dirt, weeds, and filth, and her face was really horrible; for the pomatum and powder from her head, and the dust from the road, were quite pasted on her skin by her tears, which, with her rouge, made so frightful a mixture, that she hardly looked human.
The servants were ready to die with laughter the moment they saw her; but not all my remonstrances could prevail upon her to get into the carriage, till she had most vehemently reproached them both for not rescuing her. The footman, fixing his eyes on the ground, as if fearful of again trusting himself to look at her, protested that the robbers had vowed they would shoot him if he moved an inch, and that one of them had stayed to watch the chariot, while the other carried her off, adding, that the reason of their behaving so barbarously, was to revenge our having secured our purses. Notwithstanding, her anger, she gave immediate credit to what he said; and really imagined that her want of money had irritated the pretended robbers to treat her with such cruelty. I determined, therefore, to be carefully upon my guard not to betray the imposition, which could now answer no other purpose, then occasioning an irreparable breach between her and the Captain.
Just as we were seated in the chariot, she discovered the loss which her head had sustained, and called out, “My God! what is become of my hair? — why, the villain has stole all my curls!”
She then ordered the man to run and see if he could find any of them in the ditch. He went, and presently returning, produced a great quantity of hair, in such nasty condition, that I was amazed she would take it; and the man, as he delivered it to her, found it impossible to keep his countenance; which she no sooner observed, than all her stormy passions were again raised. She flung the battered curls in his face, saying, “Sirrah, what do you grin for? I wish you’d been served so yourself, and you wouldn’t have found it no such joke; you are the impudentest fellow ever I see; and if I find you dare grin at me any more, I shall make no ceremony of boxing your ears.”
Satisfied with the threat, the man hastily retired, and we drove on.
Her anger now subsiding into grief, she began most sorrowfully to lament her case. “I believe,” she cried, “never nobody was so unlucky as I am! and so here, because I ha’n’t had misfortunes enough already, that puppy has made me lose my curls! — Why, I can’t see nobody without them:— only look at me — I was never so bad off in my life before. Pardi, if I’d know’d as much, I’d have brought two or three sets with me: but I’d never a thought of such a thing as this.”
Finding her now somewhat pacified, I ventured to ask an account of her adventure, which I will endeavour to write in her own words.
“Why, child, all this misfortune comes of that puppy’s making us leave our money behind us; for, as soon as the robber see I did put nothing in his hands, he lugged me out of the chariot by main force, and I verily thought he’d have murdered me. He was as strong as a lion; I was no more in his hands than a child. But I believe never nobody was so abused before; for he dragged me down the road, pulling and hauling me all the way, as if’d no more feeling than a horse. I’m sure I wish I could see that man cut up and quartered alive! however, he’ll come to the gallows, that’s one good thing. So soon as we’d got out of sight of the chariot, though he needn’t have been afraid, for if he’d beat me to a mummy, those cowardly fellows wouldn’t have said nothing to it — so, when I was got there, what does he do, but all of a sudden he takes me by both the shoulders, and he gives me such a shake! — Mon Dieu I shall never forget it, if I live to be an hundred. I’m sure I dare say I’m out of joint all over. And though I made as much noise as I ever could, he took no more notice of it than nothing at all; there he stood, shaking me in that manner, as if he was doing it for a wager. I’m determined, if it costs me all my fortune, I’ll see that villain hanged. He shall be found out, if there’s e’er a justice in England. So when he had shook me till he was tired, and I felt all over like a jelly, without saying never a word, he takes and pops me into the ditch! I’m sure, I thought he’d have murdered me, as much as ever I thought any thing in my life; for he kept bumping me about, as if he thought nothing too bad for me. However, I’m resolved I’ll never leave my purse behind me again, the longest day I have to live. So when he couldn’t stand over me no longer, he holds out his hands again for my money; but he was as cunning as could be, for he wouldn’t speak a word, because I shouldn’t swear to his voice; however, that sha’n’t save him, for I’ll swear to him any day in the year, if I can but catch him. So, when I told him I had no money, he fell to jerking me again, just as if he had but that moment begun! And, after that, he got me close by a tree, and out of his pocket he pulls a great cord! — It’s a wonder I did not swoon away: for as sure as you’re alive, he was going to hang to me that tree. I screamed like any thing mad, and told him if he would but spare my life, I’d never prosecute him, nor tell anybody what he’d done to me: so he stood some time quite in a brown study, a-thinking what he should do. And so, after that, he forced me to sit down in the ditch, and he tied my feet together, just as you see them: and then, as if he had not done enough, he twitched off my cap, and without saying nothing, got on his horse and left me in that condition; thinking, I suppose, that I might lie there and perish.”
Though this narrative almost compelled me to laugh, yet I was really irritated with the Captain, for carrying his love of tormenting — sport, he calls it — to such barbarous and unjustifiable extremes. I consoled and soothed her, as well as I was able: and told her, that since M. Du Bois had escaped, I hoped, when she recovered from her fright, all would end well.
“Fright, child!” repeated she — “why that’s not half:— I promise you, I wish it was: but here I’m bruised from top to toe and it’s well if ever I have the right use of my limbs again. However, I’m glad the villain got nothing but his trouble for his pains. But here the worst is to come, for I can’t go out, because I’ve got no curls, and so he’ll be escaped before I can get to the justice to stop him. I’m resolved I’ll tell Lady Howard how her man served me; for if he hadn’t made me fling ’em away, I dare say I would have pinned them up well enough for the country.”
“Perhaps Lady Howard may be able to lend you a cap that will wear without them.”
“Lady Howard, indeed! why, do you think I’d wear one of her dowdies? No, I’ll promise you, I sha’n’t put on no such disguisement. It’s the unluckiest thing in the world that I did not make the man pick up the curls again; but he put me in such a passion, I could not think of nothing. I know I can’t get none at Howard Grove for love nor money: for of all the stupid places ever I see, that Howard Grove is the worst; there’s never no getting nothing one wants.”
This sort of conversation lasted till we arrived at our journey’s end; and then a new distress occurred: Madame Duval was eager to speak to Lady Lady Howard and Mrs. Mirvan, and to relate her misfortunes: but she could not endure that Sir Clement or the Captain should see her in such disorder; so she said they were so ill-natured, that instead of pitying her, they would only make a jest of her disasters. She therefore sent me first into the house, to wait for an opportunity of their being out of the way, that she might steal up stairs unobserved. In this I succeeded, as the gentlemen thought it most prudent not to seem watching for her; though they both contrived to divert themselves with peeping at her as she passed.
She went immediately to bed, where she had her supper. Lady Howard and Mrs. Mirvan both of them very kindly sat with her, and listened to her tale with compassionate attention: while Miss Mirvan and I retired to our own room, where I was very glad to end the troubles of the day in a comfortable conversation.
The Captain’s raptures, during supper, at the success of his plan, were boundless. I spoke afterwards to Mrs. Mirvan with the openness which her kindness encourages, and begged her to remonstrate with him upon the cruelty of tormenting Madame Duval so causelessly. She promised to take the first opportunity of starting up the subject: but said he was at present so much elated, that he would not listen to her with any patience. However, should he make any new efforts to molest her, I can by no means consent to be passive. Had I imagined he would have been so violent, I would have risked his anger in her defense much sooner.
She had kept her bed all day, and declares she is almost bruised to death.
Adieu, my dear Sir. What a long letter have I written! I could almost fancy I sent it to you from London!
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:06