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“But, my dear Lady Di., indeed you should not let this affair prey so continually upon your spirits,” said Miss Burrage, in the condoling tone of a humble companion —“you really have almost fretted yourself into a nervous fever. I was in hopes that change of air, and change of scene, would have done every thing for you, or I never would have consented to your leaving London; for you know your ladyship’s always better in London than any where else. And I’m sure your ladyship has thought and talked of nothing but this sad affair since you came to Clifton.”
“I confess,” said Lady Diana Chillingworth, “I deserve the reproaches of my friends for giving way to my sensibility, as I do, upon this occasion: but I own I cannot help it. — Oh, what will the world say! What will the world say! — The world will lay all the blame upon me; yet I’m sure I’m the last, the very last person that ought to be blamed.”
“Assuredly,” replied Miss Burrage, “nobody can blame your ladyship; and nobody will, I am persuaded. The blame will all be thrown, where it ought to be, upon the young lady herself.”
“If I could but be convinced of that,” said her ladyship, in a tone of great feeling; “such a young creature, scarcely sixteen, to take such a step! — I am sure I wish to Heaven her father had never made me her guardian. I confess, I was most exceedingly imprudent, out of regard to her family, to take under my protection such a self-willed, unaccountable, romantic girl. Indeed, my dear,” continued Lady Diana Chillingworth, turning to her sister, Lady Frances Somerset, “it was you that misled me. You remember you used to tell me, that Anne Warwick had such great abilities!”—
“That I thought it a pity they had not been well directed,” said Lady Frances.
“And such generosity of temper, and such warm affections!” said Lady Di. —
“That I regretted their not having been properly cultivated.”
“I confess, Miss Warwick was never a great favourite of mine,” said Miss Barrage; “but now that she has lost her best friend —”
“She is likely to find a great number of enemies,” said Lady Frances.
“She has been her own enemy, poor girl! I am sure I pity her,” replied Miss Burrage; “but, at the same time, I must say, that ever since she came to my Lady Di. Chillingworth’s, she has had good advice enough.”
“Too much, perhaps; which is worse than too little,” thought Lady Frances.
“Advice!” repeated Lady Di. Chillingworth: “why, as to that, my conscience, I own, acquits me there; for, to be sure, no young person, of her age, or of any age, had ever more advice, or more good advice, than Miss Warwick had from me; I thought it my duty to advise her, and advise her I did from morning till night, as Miss Burrage very well knows, and will do me the justice, I hope, to say in all companies.”
“That I shall certainly make it a principle to do,” said Miss Burrage. “I am sure it would surprise and grieve you, Lady Frances, to hear the sort of foolish, imprudent things that Miss. Warwick, with all her abilities, used to say. I recollect —”
“Very possibly,” replied Lady Frances; “but why should we trouble ourselves to recollect all the foolish, imprudent things which this poor girl may have said? — This unfortunate elopement is a sufficient proof of her folly and imprudence. With whom did she go off?”
“With nobody,” cried Lady Diana —“there’s the wonder.”
“With nobody! — Incredible. — She had certainly some admirer, some lover, and she was afraid, I suppose, to mention the business to you.”
“No such thing, my dear: there is no love at all in the case: indeed, for my part, I cannot in the least comprehend Miss Warwick, nor ever could. She used, every now and then, to begin and talk to me some nonsense about her hatred of the forms of the world, and her love of liberty, and I know not what; and then she had some female correspondent, to whom she used to write folio sheets, twice a week, I believe; but I could never see any of these letters. Indeed, in town, you know, I could not possibly have leisure for such things; but Miss Burrage, I fancy, has one of the letters, if you have any curiosity to see it. Miss Burrage can tell you a great deal more of the whole business than I can; for you know, in London, engaged as I always was, with scarcely a moment ever to myself, how could I attend to all Anne Warwick’s oddities? I protest I know nothing of the matter, but that, one morning, Miss Warwick was nowhere to be found, and my maid brought me a letter, of one word of which I could not make sense: the letter was found on the young lady’s dressing-table, according to the usual custom of eloping heroines. Miss Burrage, do show Lady Frances the letters — you have them somewhere; and tell my sister all you know of the matter, for I declare, I’m quite tired of it; besides, I shall be wanted at the card-table.”
Lady Diana Chillingworth went to calm her sensibility at the card-table; and Lady Frances turned to Miss Burrage, for further information.
“All I know,” said Miss Burrage, “is, that one night I saw Miss Warwick putting a lock of frightful hair into a locket, and I asked her whose it was. —‘My amiable Araminta’s,’ said Miss Warwick, ‘Is she pretty?’ said I. ‘I have never seen her,’ said Miss Warwick; ‘but I will show you a charming picture of her mind!’— and she put this long letter into my hand. I’ll leave it with your ladyship, if you please; it is a good, or rather a bad hour’s work to read it.”
“Araminta!” exclaimed Lady Frances, looking at the signature of the letter —“this is only a nom de guerre, I suppose.”
“Heaven knows!” answered Miss Burrage; “but Miss Warwick always signed her epistles Angelina, and her unknown friend’s were always signed Araminta. I do suspect that Araminta, whoever she is, was the instigator of this elopement.”
“I wish,” said Lady Frances, examining the post-mark of the letter, “I wish that we could find out where Araminta lives; we might then, perhaps, recover this poor Miss Warwick, before the affair is talked of in the world — before her reputation is injured.”
“It would certainly be a most desirable thing,” said Miss Burrage; “but Miss Warwick has such odd notions, that I question whether she will ever behave like other people; and, for my part, I cannot blame Lady Diana Chillingworth for giving her up. She is one of those young ladies whom it is scarcely possible to manage by common sense.”
“It is certainly true,” said Lady Frances, “that young women of Miss Warwick’s superior abilities require something more than common sense to direct them properly. Young ladies who think of nothing but dress, public amusements, and forming what they call high connexions, are undoubtedly most easily managed, by the fear of what the world will say of them; but Miss Warwick appeared to me to have higher ideas of excellence; and I therefore regret that she should be totally given up by her friends.”
“It is Miss Warwick who has given up her friends,” said Miss Burrage, with a mixture of embarrassment and sarcasm in her manner; “it is Miss Warwick who has given up her friends; not Miss Warwick’s friends who have given up Miss Warwick.”
The letter from the “amiable Araminta,” which Miss Burrage left for the pervsal of Lady Frances Somerset, contained three folio sheets, of which, it is hoped, the following abridgment will be sufficiently ample to satisfy the curiosity even of those who are lovers of long letters:—
“Yes, my Angelina! our hearts are formed for that higher species of friendship, of which common souls are inadequate to form an idea, however their fashionable puerile lips may, in the intellectual inanity of their conversation, profane the term. Yes, my Angelina, you are right — every fibre of my frame, every energy of my intellect, tells me so. I read your letter by moonlight! The air balmy and pure as my Angelina’s thoughts! The river silently meandering! — The rocks! — The woods! — Nature in all her majesty. Sublime confidante! Sympathizing with my supreme felicity. And shall I confess to you, friend of my soul! that I could not refuse myself the pleasure of reading to my Orlando some of those passages in your last, which evince so powerfully the superiority of that understanding, which, if I mistake not strangely, is formed to combat, in all its Proteus forms, the system of social slavery? With what soul-rending eloquence does my Angelina describe the solitariness, the isolation of the heart she experiences in a crowded metropolis! With what emphatic energy of inborn independence does she exclaim against the family phalanx of her aristocratic persecutors!-Surely — surely she will not be intimidated from ‘the settled purpose of her soul’ by the phantom-fear of worldly censure! — The garnish-tinselled wand of fashion has waved in vain in the illuminated halls of folly-painted pleasure; my Angelina’s eyes have withstood, yes, without a blink, the dazzling enchantment. — And will she — no, I cannot, I will not think so for an instant — will she now submit her understanding, spell-bound, to the soporific charm of nonsensical words, uttered in an awful tone by that potent enchantress, Prejudice? — The declamation, the remonstrances of self-elected judges of right and wrong, should be treated with deserved contempt by superior minds, who claim the privilege of thinking and acting for themselves. The words ward and guardian appal my Angelina! but what are legal technical formalities, what are human institutions, to the view of shackle-scorning Reason! Oppressed, degraded, enslaved, must our unfortunate sex for ever submit to sacrifice their rights, their pleasures, their will, at the altar of public opinion; whilst the shouts of interested priests, and idle spectators, raise the senseless enthusiasm of the self-devoted victim, or drown her cries in the truth-extorting moment of agonizing nature! — You will not perfectly understand, perhaps, to what these last exclamations of your Araminta allude:— But, chosen friend of my heart! — when we meet —— and oh, let that be quickly!-my cottage longs for the arrival of my unsophisticated Angelina! — when we meet you shall know all — your Araminta, too, has had her sorrows — Enough of this! — But her Orlando has a heart, pure as the infantine god of love could, in his most perfect mood, delight at once to wound, and own — joined to an understanding — shall I say it? — worthy to judge of your Araminta’s — And will not my sober-minded Angelina prefer, to all that palaces can afford, such society in a cottage? — I shall reserve for my next the description of a cottage, which I have in my eye, within view of —; but I will not anticipate. — Adieu, my amiable Angelina. — I enclose, as you desire, a lock of my hair. — Ever, unalterably, your affectionate, though almost heart-broken,
“April, 1800. —Angelina Bower!
“So let me christen my cottage!”
What effect this letter may have on sober-minded readers in general can easily be guessed; but Miss Warwick, who was little deserving of this epithet, was so charmed with the sound of it, that it made her totally to forget to judge of her amiable Araminta’s mode of reasoning. “Garnish-tinselled wands”—“shackle-scorning Reason”—“isolation of the heart”—“soul-rending eloquence”— with “rocks and woods, and a meandering river — balmy air — moonlight — Orlando — energy of intellect — a cottage — and a heart-broken friend,” made, when all mixed together, strange confusion in Angelina’s imagination. She neglected to observe, that her Araminta was in the course of two pages —“almost heart-broken”— and in the possession of —“supreme felicity.”—— Yet Miss Warwick, though she judged so like a simpleton, was a young woman of considerable abilities: her want of what the world calls common sense arose from certain mistakes in her education. — She had passed her childhood with a father and mother, who cultivated her literary taste, but who neglected to cultivate her judgment: her reading was confined to works of imagination; and the conversation which she heard was not calculated to give her any knowledge of realities. Her parents died when she was about fourteen, and she then went to reside with Lady Diana Chillingworth, a lady who placed her whole happiness in living in a certain circle of high company in London. Miss Warwick saw the follies of the society with which she now mixed; she felt insupportable ennui from the want of books and conversation suited to her taste; she heard with impatience Lady Diana’s dogmatical advice; observed, with disgust, the meanness of her companion, Miss Burrage, and felt with triumph the superiority of her own abilities. It was in this situation of her mind that Miss Warwick happened, at a circulating library, to meet with a new novel, called “The Woman of Genius.”— The character of Araminta, the heroine, charmed her beyond measure; and having been informed, by the preface, that the story was founded on facts in the life of the authoress herself, she longed to become acquainted with her; and addressed a letter to “The Woman of Genius,” at her publisher’s. The letter was answered in a highly flattering, and consequently, very agreeable style, and the correspondence continued for nearly two years; till, at length, Miss W. formed a strong desire to see her unknown friend. The ridicule with which Miss Burrage treated every thing, and every idea, that was not sanctioned by fashion, and her total want of any taste for literature, were continually contrasted in Miss Warwick’s mind, with the picture she had formed of her Araminta. — Miss Burrage, who dreaded, though certainly without reason, that she might be supplanted in the good graces of Lady Diana, endeavoured by every petty means in her power, to disgust her young rival with the situation in which she was placed. She succeeded beyond her hopes. Miss Warwick determined to accept of her unknown friend’s invitation to Angelina Bower — a charming romantic cottage in South Wales, where, according to Araminta’s description, she might pass her halcyon days in tranquil, elegant retirement. It was not difficult for our heroine, though unused to deception, to conceal her project from Lady Diana Chillingworth, who was much more observant of the appearance of her protégée in public, than interested about what passed in her mind in private. Miss Warwick quitted her ladyship’s house without the least difficulty, and the following is the letter which our heroine left upon her dressing-table. Under all the emphatic words, according to the custom of some letter-writers, were drawn emphatic lines.
“Averse as I am to every thing that may have the appearance of a clandestine transaction, I have, however, found myself under the necessity of leaving your ladyship’s house, without imparting to you my intentions. Confidence and sympathy go hand in hand, nor can either be commanded by the voice of authority. Your ladyship’s opinions and mine, upon all subjects, differ so essentially, that I could never hope for your approbation, either of my sentiments or my conduct. It is my unalterable determination to act and think upon every occasion for myself; though I am well aware, that they who start out of the common track, either in words or action, are exposed to the ridicule and persecution of vulgar or illiberal minds. They who venture to carry the first torch into unexplored or unfrequented passages in the mine of truth are exposed to the most imminent danger. Rich, however, are the treasures of the place, and cowardly the soul that hesitates! But I forget myself.
“It may be necessary to inform your ladyship, that, disgusted with the frivolity of what is called fashionable life, and unable to live without the higher pleasures of friendship, I have chosen for my asylum the humble, tranquil cottage of a female friend, whose tastes, whose principles have long been known to me: whose genius I admire! whose virtues I revere! Whose example I emulate!
“Though I do not condescend to use the fulsome language of a mean dependant, I am not forgetful of the kindness I have received from your ladyship. It has not been without a painful struggle that I have broken my bonds asunder — the bonds of what is falsely called duty: spontaneous gratitude ever will have full, indisputable, undisputed power over the heart and understanding of
“P.S. It will be in vain to attempt to discover the place of my retreat. All I ask is to be left in peace, to enjoy, in my retirement, perfect felicity.”
Full of her hopes of finding “perfect felicity” in her retreat at Angelina Bower, exulting in the idea of the courage and magnanimity with which she had escaped from her “aristocratic persecutors,” our heroine pursued her journey to South Wales.
She had the misfortune — and it is a great misfortune to a young lady of her way of thinking — to meet with no difficulties or adventures, nothing interesting upon her journey. She arrived, with inglorious safety, at Cardiffe. The inn at Cardiffe was kept by a landlady of the name of Hoel. “Not high-born Hoel. Alas!” said Angelina to herself, when the name was screamed in her hearing by a waiter, as she walked into the inn. “Vocal no more to high-born Hoel’s harp, or soft Llewellynn’s lay!” A harper was sitting in the passage, and he tuned his harp to catch her attention as she passed. “A harp! — O play for me some plaintive air!” The harper followed her into a small parlour.
“How delightful!” said Miss Warwick, who, in common with other heroines, had the habit of talking to herself; or, to use more dignified terms, who had the habit of indulging in soliloquy:—“how delightful to taste at last the air of Wales. But ’tis a pity ’tis not North instead of South Wales, and Conway instead of Cardiffe Castle.”
The harper, after he had finished playing a melancholy air, exclaimed, “That was but a melancholy ditty, miss — we’ll try a merrier.” And he began —
“Of a noble race was Shenkin.”
“No more,” cried Angelina, stopping her ears; “no more, barbarous man! — you break the illusion.”
“Break the what?” said the harper to himself; “I thought, miss, that tune would surely please you; for it is a favourite one in these parts.”
“A favourite with Welsh squires, perhaps,” said our heroine; “but, unfortunately, I am not a Welsh squire, and have no taste for your ‘Bumper Squire Jones.’”
The man tuned his harp sullenly. “I’m sorry for it, miss,” said he: “more’s the pity, I can’t please you better!”
Angelina cast upon him a look of contempt. “He no way fills my idea of a bard! — an ancient and immortal bard! — He has no soul — fingers without a soul! — No ‘master’s hand, ‘or ‘prophet’s fire!’— No ‘deep sorrows!’— No ‘sable garb of woe!’— No loose beard, or hoary hair, ‘streaming like a meteor to the troubled air!’—‘No haggard eyes!’— Heigho!”—“It is time for me to be going,” said the harper, who began to think, by the young lady’s looks and manners, that she was not in her right understanding. “It is time for me to be going; the gentlemen above in the Dolphin will be ready for me.”
“A mere modern harper! He is not even blind,” Angelina said to herself, as he examined the shilling which she gave him. “Begone, for Heaven’s sake!” added she, aloud, as he left the room; — and “leave me, leave me to repose.” She threw up the sash, to taste the evening air; but scarcely had she begun to repeat a sonnet to her Araminta — scarcely had she repeated the first two lines —
“Hail, far-famed, fairest, unknown friend,
Our sacred silent sympathy of soul,”
when a little ragged Welsh boy, who was playing with his companions, in a field at the back of Cardifie Inn, espied her, gave the signal to his playfellows, and immediately they all came running up to the window at which Angelina was standing, and with one loud shrill chorus of “Gi’ me ha’penny! — Gi’ me ha’penny! — Gi’ me one ha’penny!” interrupted the sonnet, Angelina threw out some money to the boys, though she was provoked by their interruption: her donation was, in the true spirit of a heroine, much greater than the occasion required and the consequence was, that these urchins, by spreading the fame of her generosity through the town of Cardiffe, collected a Lilliputian mob of petitioners, who assailed Angelina with fresh vehemence. Not a moment’s peace, not a moment for poetry or reverie would they allow her: so that she was impatient for her chaise to come to the door. Her Araminta’s cottage was but six miles distant from Cardiffe; and to speak in due sentimental language, every moment that delayed her long-expected interview with her beloved unknown friend, appeared to her an age.
“And what would you be pleased to have for supper, ma’am?” said the landlady. “We have fine Tenby oysters, ma’am; and, if you’d like a Welsh rabbit —”
“Tenby oysters! — Welsh rabbits!” repeated Angelina, in a disdainful tone. “Oh, detain me not in this cruel manner! — I want no Tenby oysters, I want no Welsh rabbits; only let me be gone — I am all impatience to see a dear friend. Oh, if you have any feeling, any humanity, detain me not!” cried she, clasping her hands.
Miss Warwick had an ungovernable propensity to make a display of sensibility; a fine theatrical scene upon every occasion; a propensity which she had acquired from novel-reading. It was never more unluckily displayed than in the present instance; for her audience and spectators, consisting of the landlady, a waiter, and a Welsh boy, who just entered the room with a knife-tray in his hand, were all more inclined to burst into rude laughter than to join in gentle sympathy. The chaise did not come to the door one moment sooner than it would have done without this pathetic wringing of the hands. As soon as Angelina drove from the door, the landlady’s curiosity broke forth —
“Pray tell me, Hugh Humphries,” said Mrs. Hoel, turning to the postilion, who drove Angelina from Newport, “pray, now, does not this seem strange, that such a young lady as this should be travelling about in such wonderful haste? I believe, by her flighty airs, she is upon no good errand — and I would have her to know, at any rate, that she might have done better than to sneer, in that way, at Mrs. Hoel of Cardiffe, and her Tenby oysters, and her Welsh rabbit. Oh, I’ll make her repent her pehaviour to Mrs. Hoel, of Cardiffe. ‘Not high-born Hoel,’ forsooth! How does she know that, I should be glad to hear? The Hoels are as high born, I’ll venture to say, as my young miss herself, I’ve a notion! and would scorn, moreover, to have a runaway lady for a relation of theirs. Oh, she shall learn to repent her disrespects to Mrs. Hoel, of Cardiffe. I pelieve she shall soon meet herself in the public newspapers — her eyes, and her nose, and her hair, and her inches, and her description at full length she shall see — and her friends shall see it too — and maybe they shall thank, and maybe they shall reward handsomely Mrs. Hoel, of Cardiffe.”
Whilst the angry Welsh landlady was thus forming projects of revenge for the contempt with which she imagined that her high birth and her Tenby oysters had been treated, Angelina pursued her journey towards the cottage of her unknown friend, forming charming pictures, in her imagination, of the manner in which her amiable Araminta would start, and weep, and faint, perhaps with joy and surprise, at the sight of her Angelina. It was a fine moonlight night — an unlucky circumstance; for the by-road which led to Angelina Bower was so narrow and bad, that if the night had been dark, our heroine must infallibly have been overturned, and this overturn would have been a delightful incident in the history of her journey; but Fate ordered it otherwise. Miss Warwick had nothing to lament, but that her delicious reveries were interrupted, for several miles, by the Welsh postilion’s expostulations with his horses.
“Good Heavens!” exclaimed she, “cannot the man hold his tongue? His uncouth vociferations distract me! So fine a scene, so placid the moonlight — but there is always something that is not in perfect unison with one’s feelings.”
“Miss, if you please, you must light here, and walk for a matter of a quarter of a mile, for I can’t drive up to the house door, because there is no carriage-road down the lane; but if you be pleased, I’ll go on before you — my horses will stand quite quiet here — and I’ll knock the folks up for you, miss.”
“Folks! — Oh, don’t talk to me of knocking folks up,” cried Angelina, springing out of the carriage “stay with your horses, man, I beseech you. You shall be summoned when you are wanted — I choose to walk up to the cottage alone.”
“As you please, miss,” said the postilion; “only hur had better take care of the dogs.”
This last piece of sage counsel was lost upon our heroine; she heard it not — she was “rapt into future times.”
“By moonlight will be our first interview — just as I had pictured to myself — but can this be the cottage? — It does not look quite so romantic as I expected — but ’tis the dwelling of my Araminta — Happy, thrice happy moment! — Now for our secret signal — I am to sing the first, and my unknown friend the second part of the same air.”
Angelina then began to sing the following stanza —
“O waly waly up the bank,
And waly waly down the brae,
And waly waly yon burn side,
Where I and my love were wont to gae.”
She sung and paused, in expectation of hearing the second part from her amiable Araminta — but no voice was heard.
“All is hushed,” said Angelina —“ever tranquil be her slumbers! Yet I must waken her — her surprise and joy at seeing me thus will be so great! — by moonlight too!”
She knocked at the cottage window — still no answer.
“All silent as night!” said she —
“‘When not a breath disturbs the deep serene,
And not a cloud o’ercasts the solemn scene.’”
Angelina, as she repeated these lines, stood with her back to the cottage window: the window opened, and a Welsh servant girl put out her head; her night-cap, if cap it might be called which shape had none, was half off, her black hair streamed over her shoulders, and her face was the face of vulgar, superstitious amazement.
“Oh, ’tis our old ghost of Nelly Gwynn, all in white, walking and saying her prayers backwards — I heard ’em quite plain, as I hope to breathe,” said the terrified girl to herself; and, shutting the window with a trembling hand, she hastened to waken an old woman, who slept in the same room with her. — Angelina, whose patience was by this time exhausted, went to the door of the cottage, and shook it with all her force. — It rattled loud, and a shrill scream was heard from within.
“A scream!” cried Angelina; “Oh, my Araminta! — All is hushed again.”— Then raising her voice, she called as loudly as she could at the window —“My Araminta! my unknown friend! be not alarmed, ’tis your Angelina.”
The door opened slowly and softly, and a slip-shod beldam peeped out, leaning upon a stick; the head of Betty Williams appeared over the shoulder of this sibyl; Angelina was standing, in a pensive attitude, listening at the cottage window. At this instant the postilion, who was tired of waiting, came whistling up the lane; he carried a trunk on his back, and a bag in his hand. As soon as the old woman saw him, she held up her stick, exclaiming —
“A man! a man! — a ropper and murterer! — Cot suve us! and keep the door fast polted.”— They shut the door instantly.
“What is all this?” said Angelina, with dignified composure.
“A couple of fools, I take it, miss, who are afraid and in tred of roppers,” said the postilion; “put I’ll make ’em come out, I’ll be pound, plockheads.”— So saying, he went to the door of Angelina Bower, and thundered and kicked at it, speaking all the time very volubly in Welsh. In about a quarter of an hour he made them comprehend that Angelina was a young lady come to visit their mistress: then they came forth curtsying.
“My name’s Betty Williams,” said the girl, who was tying a clean cap under her chin. “Welcome to Llanwaetur, miss! — pe pleased to excuse our keeping hur waiting, and polting the toor, and taking hur for a ghost and a ropper — put we know who you are now — the young lady from London, that we have been told to expect.”
“Oh, then, I have been expected; all’s right — and my Araminta, where is she? where is she?”
“Welcome to Llanwaetur, welcome to Llanwaetur, and Cot pless hur pretty face,” said the old woman, who followed Betty Williams out of the cottage.
“Hur’s my grandmother, miss,” said Betty.
“Very likely — but let me see my Araminta,” cried Angelina: “cruel woman! where is she, I say?”
“Cot pless hur! — Cot pless hur pretty face,” repeated the old woman, curtsying.
“My grandmother’s as deaf as a post, miss — don’t mind her; she can’t tell Inglis well, put I can:— who would you pe pleased to have?”
“In plain English, then — the lady who lives in this cottage.”
“Our Miss Hodges?”
This odious name of Hodges provoked Angelina, who was so used to call her friend Araminta, that she had almost forgotten her real name.
“Oh, miss,” continued Betty Williams, “Miss Hodges has gone to Pristol for a few days.”
“Gone! how unlucky! my Araminta gone!”
“Put Miss Hodges will pe pack on Tuesday — Miss Hodges did not expect hur till Thursday — put her ped is very well aired — pe pleased to walk in, and light hur a candle, and get hur a nightcap.”
“Heigho! must I sleep again without seeing my Araminta! — Well, but I shall sleep in a cottage for the first time in my life —
“‘The swallow twittering from the straw-built shed.’”
At this moment, Angelina, forgetting to stoop, hit herself a violent blow as she was entering Angelina Bower — the roof of which, indeed, “was too low for so lofty a head.”— A headache came on, which kept her awake the greatest part of the night. In the morning she set about to explore the cottage; it was nothing like the species of elegant retirement, of which she had drawn such a charming picture in her imagination. It consisted of three small bedchambers, which were more like what she had been used to call closets; a parlour, the walls of which were, in many places, stained with damp; and a kitchen which smoked. The scanty, moth-eaten furniture of the rooms was very different from the luxury and elegance to which Angelina had been accustomed in the apartments of Lady Diana Chillingworth. Coarse and ill-dressed was the food which Betty Williams with great bustle and awkwardness served up to her guest; but Angelina was no epicure. The first dinner which she ate on wooden trenchers delighted her; the second, third, fourth, and fifth, appeared less and less delectable; so that by the time she had boarded one week at her cottage, she was completely convinced that
“A scrip with herbs and fruit supplied,
And water from the spring,”
though delightful to Goldsmith’s Hermit, are not quite so satisfactory in actual practice as in poetic theory; at least to a young lady who had been habituated to all the luxuries of fashionable life. It was in vain that our heroine repeated
“Man wants but little here below:”
She found that even the want of double refined sugar, of green tea, and Mocha coffee, was sensibly felt. Hour after hour, and day after day, passed with Angelina, in anxious expectation of her Araminta’s return home. Her time hung heavy upon her hands, for she had no companion with whom she could converse; and one odd volume of Rousseau’s Eloise, and a few well-thumbed German plays, were the only books which she could find in the house. There was, according to Betty Williams’s report, “a vast sight of books in a press, along with some table-cloths,” but Miss Hodges had the key of this press in her pocket. Deprived of the pleasures both of reading and conversation, Angelina endeavoured to amuse herself by contemplating the beauties of nature. There were some wild, solitary walks in the neighbourhood of Angelina Bower; but though our heroine was delighted with these, she wanted, in her rambles, some kindred soul, to whom she might exclaim —“How charming is solitude21!”— The day after her arrival in Wales, she wrote a long letter to Araminta, which Betty Williams undertook to send by a careful lad, a particular friend of her own, who would deliver it, without fail, into Miss Hodges’s own hands, and who would engage to bring an answer by three o’clock the next day. The careful lad did not return till four days afterward, and he then could give no account of his mission, except that he had left the letter at Bristol, with a particular friend of his own, who would deliver it, without fail, into Miss Hodges’s own hands, if he could meet with her. The post seems to be the last expedient which a heroine ever thinks of for the conveyance of her letters; so that, if we were to judge from the annals of romance, we should infallibly conclude there was no such thing as a post-office in England. On the sixth day of her abode at this comfortless cottage, the possibility of sending a letter to her friend by the post occurred to Angelina, and she actually discovered that there was a post-office at Cardiffe. Before she could receive an answer to this epistle, a circumstance happened, which made her determine to abandon her present retreat. One evening she rambled out to a considerable distance from the cottage, and it was long after sunset ere she recollected that it would be necessary to return homewards before it grew dark. She mistook her way at last, and following a sheep-path, down the steep side of a mountain, she came to a point, at which she, apparently, could neither advance nor recede. A stout Welsh farmer who was counting his sheep in a field, at the top of the mountain, happened to look down its steep side in search of one of his flock that was missing: the farmer saw something white at a distance below him, but there was a mist — it was dusk in the evening — and whether it were a woman, or a sheep, he could not he certain. In the hope that Angelina was his lost sheep, he went to her assistance, and though, upon a nearer view, he was disappointed, in finding that she was a woman, yet he had the humanity to hold out his stick to her, and he helped her up by it, with some difficulty. One of her slippers fell off as she scrambled up the hill — there was no recovering it; her other slipper, which was of the thinnest kid leather, was cut through by the stones; her silk stockings were soon stained with the blood of her tender feet; and it was with real gratitude that she accepted the farmer’s offer, to let her pass the night at his farmhouse, which was within view. Angelina Bower was, according to his computation, about four miles distant, as well, he said, as he could judge of the place she meant by her description: she had unluckily forgotten that the common name of it was Llanwaetur. At the farmer’s house, she was, at first, hospitably received, by a tight-looking woman; but she had not been many minutes seated, before she found herself the object of much curiosity and suspicion. In one corner of the room, at a small round table, with a jug of ale before him, sat a man, who looked like the picture of a Welsh squire: a candle had just been lighted for his worship, for he was a magistrate, and a great man, in those parts, for he could read the newspaper, and his company was, therefore, always welcome to the farmer, who loved to hear the news, and the reader was paid for his trouble with good ale, which he loved even better than literature.
“What news, Mr. Evans?” said the farmer.
“What news?” repeated Mr. Evans, looking up from his paper, with a sarcastic smile. “Why, news that might not be altogether so agreeable to the whole of this good company; so ’tis best to keep it to ourselves.”
“Every thing’s agreeable to me, I’m sure,” said the farmer —“every thing’s agreeable to me in the way of news.”
“And to me, not excepting politics, which you gentlemen always think so polite,” said the farmer’s wife, “to keep to yourselves; but, you recollect, I was used to politics when I lived with my uncle at Cardiffe; not having, though a farmer’s wife, always lived in the country, as you see, ma’am — nor being quite illiterate. — Well, Mr. Evans, let us have it. What news of the fleets?”
Mr. Evans made no reply, but pointed out a passage in the newspaper to the farmer, who leant over his shoulder, in vain endeavouring to spell and put it together: his smart wife, whose curiosity was at least equal to her husband’s, ran immediately to peep at the wonderful paragraph, and she read aloud the beginning of an advertisement:—
“Suspected to have strayed, or eloped, from her friends or relations, a young lady, seemingly not more than sixteen years of age, dressed in white, with a straw hat: blue eyes, light hair.”
Angelina coloured so deeply whilst this was reading, and the description so exactly suited with her appearance, that the farmer’s wife stopped short; the farmer fixed his eyes upon her; and Mr. Evans cleared his throat several times with much significance. — A general silence ensued; at last the three heads nodded to one another across the round table; the farmer whistled and walked out of the room; his wife fidgeted at a buffet, in which she began to arrange some cups and saucers; and, after a few minutes, she followed her husband. Angelina took up the newspaper, to read the remainder of the advertisement. She could not doubt that it was meant for her, when she saw that it was dated the very day of her arrival at the inn at Cardiffe, and signed by the landlady of the inn, Mrs. Hoel. Mr. Evans swallowed the remainder of his ale, and then addressed Angelina in these words:—
“Young lady, it is plain to see you know when the cap fits: now, if you’ll take my advice, you’ll not make the match you have in your eye; for, though a lord’s son, he is a great gambler. I dined with one that has dined with him not long ago. My son, who has a living near Bristol, knows a great deal — more about you than you’d think; and ’tis my advice to you, which I wouldn’t be at the trouble of giving, if you were not as pretty as you are, to go back to your relations; for he’ll never marry you, and marriage to be sure is your object. I have no more to say, but only this — I shall think it my duty, as a magistrate, to let your friends know as soon as possible where you are, coming under my cognizance as you do; for a vagabond, in the eye of the law, is a person —”
Angelina had not patience to listen to any more of this speech; she interrupted Mr. Evans with a look of indignation, assured him that he was perfectly unintelligible to her, and walked out of the room with great dignity. Her dignity made no impression upon the farmer or his wife, who now repented having offered her a night’s lodging in their house: in the morning they were as eager to get rid of her as she was impatient to depart. Mr. Evans insisted upon seeing her safe home, evidently for the purpose of discovering precisely where she lived. Angelina saw that she could no longer remain undisturbed in her retreat, and determined to set out immediately in quest of her unknown friend at Bristol. — Betty Williams, who had a strong desire to have a jaunt to Bristol, a town which she had never seen but once in her life, offered to attend Miss Warwick, assuring her that she perfectly well knew the house where Miss Hodges always lodged. Her offer was accepted; and what adventures our heroine met with in Bristol, and what difficulties she encountered before she discovered her Araminta, will be seen in the next chapter.
Angelina went by water from Cardiffe to Bristol; the water was rather rough, and, as she was unused to the motion of a vessel, she was both frightened and sick. She spent some hours very disagreeably, and without even the sense of acting like a heroine, to support her spirits. It was late in the evening before she arrived at the end of her voyage: she was landed on the quay at Bristol. No hackney-coach was to be had, and she was obliged to walk to the Bush. To find herself in the midst of a bustling, vulgar crowd, by whom she was unknown, but not unnoticed, was new to Miss Warwick. Whilst she was with Lady Diana Chillingworth, she had always been used to see crowds make way for her; she was now surprised to feel herself jostled in the streets by passengers, who were all full of their own affairs, hurrying different ways, in pursuit of objects which probably seemed to them as important as the search for an unknown friend appeared to Angelina.
Betty Williams’s friend’s friend, the careful lad, who was to deliver the letter to Miss Hodges, was a waiter at the Bush. Upon inquiry, it was found that he had totally forgotten his promise: Angelina’s letter was, after much search, found in a bottle-drainer, so much stained with port wine, that it was illegible. The man answered with the most provoking nonchalance, when Angelina reproached him for his carelessness —“That, indeed, no such person as Miss Hodges was to be found: that nobody he could meet with had ever heard the name.” They who are extremely enthusiastic suffer continually from the total indifference of others to their feelings; and young people can scarcely conceive the extent of this indifference until they have seen something of the world. Seeing the world does not always mean seeing a certain set of company in London.
Angelina, the morning after her arrival at the Bush, took a hackney-coach, and left the care of directing the coachman to Betty Williams, who professed to have a perfect knowledge of Bristol. Betty desired the man to drive to the drawbridge; and, at the sound of the word drawbridge, various associations of ideas with the drawbridges of ancient times were called up in Miss Warwick’s imagination. How different was the reality from her castles in the air! She was roused from her reverie by the voices of Betty Williams and the coachman.
“Where will I drive ye to, I ask you?” said the coachman, who was an Irishman: “Will I stand all day upon the drawbridge stopping the passage?”
“Trive on a step, and I will get out and see apout me,” said Betty: “I know the look of the house, as well as I know any thing.”
Betty got out of the coach, and walked up and down the street, looking at the houses like one bewildered.
“Bad luck to you! for a Welsh woman as you are,” exclaimed the coachman, jumping down from the box, “will I lave the young lady standing in the streets all day alone for you to be making a fool this way of us both? — Sorrow take me now! If I do —”
“Pless us, pe not in a pet or a pucker, or how shall I recollect any body or any thing. — Cood! Cood! — Stand you there while I just say over my alphabet: a, p, c, t, e, f, g, h, i, k, l, m, n, o, b. — It was some name which begins with p, and ends with a t, I pelieve.”
“Here’s a pretty direction, upon my troth; some name which begins with a p, and ends with a t,” cried the coachman; and after he had uttered half a score of Hibernian execrations upon the Welsh woman’s folly, he with much good nature went along with her to read the names on the street doors. —“Here’s a name now that’s the very thing for you — here’s Pushit now.-Was the name Pushit? — Ricollict yourself, my good girl, was that your name?”
“Pushit! — Oh, yes, I am sure, and pelieve it was Pushit — Mrs. Pushit’s house, Pristol, where our Miss Hodges lodges alway.”
“Mrs. Pushit — but this is quite another man; I tell you this is Sir John — Faith now we are in luck,” continued the coachman —“here’s another p just at hand; here’s Mrs. Puffit; sure she begins with a p, and ends with a t, and is a milliner into the bargain? so sure enough I’ll engage the young lady lodges here. — Puffit — Hey? — Ricollict now, and don’t be looking as if you’d just been pulled out of your sleep, and had never been in a Christian town before now.”
“Pless us, Cot pless us!” said the Welsh girl, who was quite overpowered by the Irishman’s flow of words — and she was on the point of having recourse, in her own defence, to her native tongue, in which she could have matched either male or female in fluency; but, to Angelina’s great relief, the dialogue between the coachman and Betty Williams ceased. The coachman drew up to Mrs. Puffit’s; but, as there was a handsome carriage at the door, Miss Warwick was obliged to wait in her hackney-coach some time longer. The handsome carriage belonged to Lady Frances Somerset. — By one of those extraordinary coincidences which sometimes occur in real life, but which are scarcely believed to be natural when they are related in books, Miss Warwick happened to come to this shop at the very moment when the persons she most wished to avoid were there. Whilst the dialogue between Betty Williams and the hackney-coachman was passing, Lady Diana Chillingworth and Miss Burrage were seated in Mrs. Puffit’s shop: Lady Diana was extremely busy bargaining with the milliner; for, though rich, and a woman of quality, her ladyship piqued herself upon making the cheapest bargains in the world.
“Your la’ship did not look at this eight and twenty shilling lace,” said Mrs. Puffit; “’tis positively the cheapest thing your la’ship ever saw. Jessie! the laces in the little blue band-box. Quick! for my Ladi Di. — Quick!”
“But it is out of my power to stay to look at any thing more now,” said Lady Diana; “and yet,” whispered she to Miss Burrage, “when one does go out a shopping, one certainly likes to bring home a bargain.”
“Certainly; but Bristol’s not the place for bargains,” said Miss Burrage; “you will find nothing tolerable, I assure you, my dear Lady Di., at Bristol.”
“Why, my dear,” said her ladyship, “were you ever at Bristol before? How comes it that I never heard that you were at Bristol before? Where were you, child?”
“At the Wells, at the Wells, ma’am,” replied Miss Burrage, and she turned pale and red in the space of a few seconds; but Lady Diana, who was very near-sighted, was holding her head so close to the blue band-box full of lace, that she could not see the changes in her companion’s countenance. The fact was, that Miss Burrage was born and bred in Bristol, where she had several relations, who were not in high life, and by whom she consequently dreaded to be claimed. When she first met Lady Diana Chillingworth at Buxton, she had passed herself upon her for one of the Burrages of Dorsetshire, and she knew that, if her ladyship was to discover the truth, she would cast her off with horror. For this reason, she had done every thing in her power to prevent Lady Di. from coming to Clifton; and for this reason she now endeavoured to persuade her that nothing tolerable could be met with at Bristol.
“I am afraid, Lady Di., you will be late at Lady Mary’s,” said she.
“Look at this lace, child, and give me your opinion — eight and twenty shillings, Mrs. Puffit, did you say?”
“Eight and twenty, my lady — and I lose by every yard I sell at that price. Ma’am, you see,” said Mrs. Puffit, appealing to Miss Burrage, “’tis real Valenciennes, you see.”
“I see ’tis horrid dear,” said Miss Burrage: then in a whisper to Lady Di. she added, “at Miss Trentham’s at the Wells, your ladyship will meet with such bargains!”
Mrs. Puffit put her lace upon the alabaster neck of the large doll which stood in the middle of her shop. “Only look, my lady — only see, ma’am, how beautiful becoming ’tis to the neck, and sets off a dress too, you know, ma’am. And (turning to Miss Burrage) eight and twenty, you know, ma’am, is really nothing for any lace you’d wear; but more particularly for real Valenciennes, which can scarce be had real, for love or money, since the French Revolution. Real Valenciennes! — and will wear and wash, and wash and wear — not that your ladyship minds that — for ever and ever — and is such a bargain, and so becoming to the neck, especially to ladies of your la’ship’s complexion.”
“Well, I protest, I believe, Burrage, I don’t know what to say, my dear — hey?”
“I’m told,” whispered Miss Burrage, “that Miss Trentham’s to have a lace raffle at the Wells next week.”
“A raffle?” cried Lady Di., turning her back immediately upon the doll and the lace.
“Well,” cried Mrs. Puffit, “instead of eight say seven and twenty shillings, Miss Burrage, for old acquaintance sake.”
“Old acquaintance!” exclaimed Miss Burrage: “la! Mrs. Puffit, I don’t remember ever being twice in your shop all the time I was at the Wells before.”
“No, ma’am,” replied Mrs. Puffit, with a malicious smile — but when you was living on Saint Augustin’s Back.”
“Saint Augustin’s Back, my dear!” exclaimed Lady Diana Chillingworth, with a look of horror and amazement.
Miss Burrage, laying down a bank-note on the counter, made a quick and expressive sign to the milliner to hold her tongue.
“Dear Mrs. Puffit,” cried she, “you certainly mistake me for some other strange person. Lady Di., now I look at it with my glass, this lace is very fine, I must agree with you, and not dear, by any means, for real Valenciennes: cut me off three yards of this lace — I protest there’s no withstanding it, Lady Di.”
“Three yards at eight and twenty — here, Jesse,” said Mrs. Puffit. “I beg your pardon, ma’am, for my mistake; I supposed it was some other lady of the same name; there are so many Burrages. Only three yards did you say, ma’am?”
“Nay, I don’t care if you give me four. I’m of the Burrages of Dorsetshire.”
“A very good family, those Burrages of Dorsetshire, as any in England,” said Lady Di. —“and put up twelve yards of this for me, Mrs. Puffit.”
“Twelve at eight and twenty — yes, my lady — very much obliged to your ladyship — much obliged to you, Miss Burrage. Here, Jesse, this to my Lady Di. Chillingworth’s carriage.” Jesse called at the shop-door, in a shrill voice, to a black servant of Lady Frances Somerset —“Mr. Hector, Mr. Hector! Sir, pray put this parcel into the carriage for Lady Diana Chillingworth.”
Angelina, who was waiting in her hackney-coach, started; she could scarcely believe that she heard the name rightly:— but, an instant afterwards, the voice of Lady Diana struck her ear, and she sunk back in great agitation. However, neither Miss Burrage nor Lady Di. saw her; they got into their carriage, and drove away.
Angelina was so much alarmed, that she could scarcely believe that the danger was past when she saw the carriage at the furthest end of the street.
“Wouldn’t you be pleased to ‘light, ma’am?” said Jesse.
“We don’t bring things to the door.”
“Who have we here?” cried Mrs. Puffit; “who have we here?”
“Only some folks out of a hack, that was kept waiting, and couldn’t draw up whilst my Lady Di.‘s carriage was at the door,” said Jesse.
“A good pretty girl, the foremost,” said Mrs. Puffit. “But, in the name of wonder, what’s that odd fish coming behind her?”
“A queer-looking pair, in good truth!” said Jesse.
Angelina seated herself, and gave a deep sigh. “Ribands, if you please, ma’am,” said she to Mrs. Puffit. “I must,” thought she, “ask for something before I ask for my Araminta.”
“Ribands — yes, ma’am — what sort? Keep an eye upon the glass,” whispered the milliner to her shop girl, as she stooped behind the counter for a drawer of ribands —“keep an eye on the glass, Jesse — a girl of the town, I take it. What colour, ma’am?”
“Blue —‘cerulean blue.’ Here, child,” said Angelina, turning to Betty Williams, “here’s a riband for you.”
Betty Williams did not hear, for Betty was fascinated by the eyes of the great doll, opposite to which she stood fixed.
“Lord, what a fine lady! and how hur stares at Betty Williams!” thought she: “I wish hur would take her eyes off me.”
“Betty! Betty Williams! — a riband for you,” cried Angelina, in a louder tone.
Betty started —“Miss! — a riband!” She ran forward, and, in pushing by the doll, threw it backward: Mrs. Puffit caught it in her arms, and Betty, stopping short, curtsied, and said to the doll —“Peg pardon, miss — peg pardon, miss — tit I hurt you? — peg pardon. Pless us! ’tis a toll, and no woman, I teclare.”
The milliner and Jesse now burst into uncontrollable, and, as Angelina feared, “unextinguishable laughter.” Nothing is so distressing to a sentimental heroine as ridicule: Miss Warwick perceived that she had her share of that which Betty Williams excited; and she who imagined herself to be capable of “combating, in all its Proteus forms, the system of social slavery,” was unable to withstand the laughter of a milliner and her ‘prentice.
“Do you please to want any thing else, ma’am?” said Mrs. Puffit, in a saucy tone —“Rouge, perhaps?”
“I wish to know, madam,” said Angelina, “whether a lady of the name of Hodges does not lodge here?”
“A lady of the name of Hodges! — no, ma’am — I’m very particular about lodgers — no such lady ever lodged with me. — Jesse! to the door — quick! — Lady Mary Tasselton’s carriage.”
Angelina hastily rose and departed. Whilst Jesse ran to the door, and whilst Mrs. Puffit’s attention was fixed upon Lady Mary Tasselton’s carriage, Betty Williams twitched from off the doll’s shoulders the remainder of the piece of Valenciennes lace which had been left there. “Since hur’s only wood, I’ll make free,” said she to herself, and she carried off the lace unobserved.
Angelina’s impatience to find her Araminta was increased, by the dread of meeting Lady Di. Chillingworth in every carriage that passed, and in every shop where she might call. At the next house at which the coachman stopped, the words, Dinah Plait, relict of Jonas Plait, cheesemonger, were written in large letters over the shop-door. Angelina thought she was in no danger of meeting her ladyship here, and she alighted. There was no one in the shop but a child of seven years old; he could not understand well what Angelina or Betty said, but he ran to call his aunt. Dinah Plait was at dinner; and when the child opened the door of the parlour, there came forth such a savoury smell, that Betty Williams, who was extremely hungry, could not forbear putting her head in, to see what was upon the table.
“Pless hur! heggs and pacon and toasted cheese — Cot pless hur!” exclaimed Betty.
“Aunt Dinah,” said the child, “here are two women in some great distress, they told me — and astray and hungry.”
“In some great distress, and astray and hungry? — then let them in here, child, this minute.”
There was seated at a small table, in a perfectly neat parlour, a quaker, whose benevolent countenance charmed Angelina the moment she entered the room.
“Pardon this intrusion,” said she.
“Friend, thou art welcome,” said Dinah Plait, and her looks said so more expressively than her words. An elderly man rose, and leaving the cork-screw in the half-drawn cork of a bottle of cider, he set a chair for Angelina, and withdrew to the window.
“Be seated, and eat, for verily thou seemest to be hungry,” said Mrs. Plait to Betty Williams, who instantly obeyed, and began to eat like one that had been half famished.
“And now, friend, thy business, thy distress — what is it?” said Dinah, turning to Angelina: “so young to have sorrows.”
“I had best take myself away,” said the elderly gentleman, who stood at the window —“I had best take myself away, for miss may not like to speak before me — though she might, for that matter.”
“Where is the gentleman going?” said Miss Warwick; “I have but one short question to ask, and I have nothing to say that need —”
“I dare say, young lady, you can have nothing to say that you need be ashamed of, only people in distress don’t like so well to speak before third folks, I guess— though, to say the truth, I have never known, by my own experience, what it was to be in much distress since I came into the world — but I hope I am not the more hard-hearted for that — for I can guess, I say, pretty well, how those in distress feel when they come to speak. Do as you would be done by is my maxim till I can find a better — so I take myself away, leaving my better part behind me, if it will be of any service to you, madam.”
As he passed by Miss Warwick, he dropped his purse into her lap, and he was gone before she could recover from her surprise.
“Sir! — madam!” cried she, rising hastily, “here has been some strange mistake — I am not a beggar — I am much, very much obliged to you, but —”
“Nay, keep it, friend, keep it,” said Dinah Plait, pressing the purse upon Angelina; “John Barker is as rich as a Jew, and as generous as a prince. Keep it, friend, and you’ll oblige both him and me —’tis dangerous in this world for one so young and so pretty as you are to be in great distress; so be not proud.”
“I am not proud,” said Miss Warwick, drawing her purse from her pocket; “but my distress is not of a pecuniary nature — Convince yourself — I am in distress only for a friend, an unknown friend.”
“Touched in her brain, I doubt,” thought Dinah.
“Coot ale!” exclaimed Betty Williams —“Coot heggs and pacon.”
“Does a lady of the name of Araminta — Miss Hodges, I mean — lodge here?” said Miss Warwick.
“Friend, I do not let lodgings; and I know of no such person as Miss Hodges.”
“Well, I swear hur name, the coachman told me, did begin with a p, and end with a t,” cried Betty Williams, “or I would never have let him knock at hur toor.”
“Oh, my Araminta! my Araminta!” exclaimed Angelina, turning up her eyes towards heaven —“when, oh when shall I find thee? I am the most unfortunate person upon earth.”
“Had not hur petter eat a hegg, and a pit of pacon? here’s one pit left,” said Betty: “hur must be hungry, for ’tis two o’clock past, and we preakfasted at nine — hur must be hungry;” and Betty pressed her to try the pacon; but Angelina put it away, or, in the proper style, motioned the bacon from her.
“I am in no want of food,” cried she, rising: “happy they who have no conception of any but corporeal sufferings. Farewell, madam! — may the sensibility, of which your countenance is so strongly expressive, never be a source of misery to you!”— and with that depth of sigh which suited the close of such a speech, Angelina withdrew.
“If I could but have felt her pulse,” said Dinah Plait to herself, “I could have prescribed something that, maybe, would have done her good, poor distracted thing! Now it was well done of John Barker to leave this purse for her — but how is this? — poor thing! she’s not fit to be trusted with money — here she has left her own purse full of guineas.”
Dinah ran immediately to the house-door, in hopes of being able to catch Angelina; but the coach had turned down into another street, and was out of sight. Mrs. Plait sent for her constant counsellor, John Barker, to deliberate on the means of returning the purse. It should be mentioned, to the credit of Dinah’s benevolence, that, at the moment when she was interrupted by the entrance of Betty Williams and Angelina, she was hearing the most flattering things from a person who was not disagreeable to her: her friend, John Barker, was a rich hosier, who had retired from business; and who, without any ostentation, had a great deal of real feeling and generosity. But the fastidious taste of fine, or sentimental readers, will probably be disgusted by our talking of the feelings and generosity of a hosier and a cheesemonger’s widow. It belongs to a certain class of people to indulge in the luxury of sentiment: we shall follow our heroine, therefore, who, both from her birth and education, is properly qualified to have —“exquisite feelings.”
The next house at which Angelina stopped, to search for her amiable Araminta, was at Mrs. Porett’s academy for young ladies.
“Yes, ma’am, Miss Hodges is here — Pray walk into this room, and you shall see the young lady immediately.” Angelina burst into the room instantly, exclaiming —
“Oh, my Araminta! have I found you at last?”
She stopped short, a little confounded at finding herself in a large room full of young ladies, who were dancing reels, and who all stood still at one and the same instant, and fixed their eyes upon her, struck with astonishment at her theatrical entrée and exclamation.
“Miss Hodges!” said Mrs. Porett — and a little girl of seven years old came forward:—“Here, ma’am,” said Mrs. Porett to Angelina, “here is Miss Hodges.”
“Not my Miss Hodges! not my Araminta! alas!”
“No, ma’am,” said the little girl; “I am only Letty Hodges.”
Several of her companions now began to titter.
“These girls,” said Angelina to herself, “take me for a fool;” and, turning to Mrs. Porett, she apologized for the trouble she had given, in language as little romantic as she could condescend to use.
“Tid you bid me, miss, wait in the coach, or the passage?” cried Betty Williams, forcing her way in at the door, so as almost to push down the dancing-master, who stood with his back to it. Betty stared round, and dropped curtsy after curtsy, whilst the young ladies laughed and whispered, and whispered and laughed; and the words, odd — vulgar — strange — who is she? — what is she? — reached Miss Warwick.
“This Welsh girl,” thought she, “is my torment. Wherever I go she makes me share the ridicule of her folly.”
Clara Hope, one of the young ladies, saw and pitied Angelina’s confusion.
“Gif over, an ye have any gude nature — gif over your whispering and laughing,” said Clara to her companions: “ken ye not ye make her so bashful, she’d fain hide her face wi’ her twa hands.”
But it was in vain that the good-natured Clara Hope remonstrated: her companions could not forbear tittering, as Betty Williams, upon Miss Warwick’s laying the blame of the mistake on her, replied in a strong Welsh accent —“I will swear almost the name was Porett or Plait, where our Miss Hodges tid always lodge in Pristol. Porett, or Plait, or Puffit, or some of her names that pekin with a p and ent with at.”
Angelina, quite overpowered, shrunk back, as Betty bawled out her vindication, and she was yet more confused, when Monsieur Richelet, the dancing-master, at this unlucky instant, came up to her, and with an elegant bow, said, “It is not difficult to see by her air, that mademoiselle dances superiorly. Mademoiselle vould she do me de plaisir — de honneur to dance one minuet?”
“Oh, if she would but dance!” whispered some of the group of young ladies.
“Excuse me, sir,” said Miss Warwick.
“Not a minuet? — den a minuet de la cour, a cotillon, or contredanse, or reel; vatever mademoiselle please vill do us honneur.”
Angelina, with a mixture of impatience and confusion, repeated, “Excuse me, sir — I am going — I interrupt — I beg I may not interrupt.”
“A coot morrow to you all, creat and small,” said Betty Williams, curtsying awkwardly at the door as she went out before Miss Warwick.
The young ladies were now diverted so much beyond the bounds of decorum, that Mrs. Porett was obliged to call them to order.
“Oh, my Araminta, what scenes have I gone through! to what derision have I exposed myself for your sake!” said our heroine to herself.
Just as she was leaving the dancing-room, she was stopped short by Betty Williams, who, with a face of terror, exclaimed, “’Tis a poy in the hall, that I tare not pass for my lifes; he has a pasket full of pees in his hand, and I cannot apide pees, ever since one tay when I was a chilt, and was stung on the nose by a pee. The poy in the hall has a pasketful of pees, ma’am,” said Betty, with an imploring accent, to Mrs. Porett.
“A basketful of bees!” said Mrs. Porett, laughing: “Oh, you are mistaken: I know what the boy has in his basket — they are only flowers; they are not bees: you may safely go by them.”
“Put I saw pees with my own eyes,” persisted Betty.
“Only a basketful of the bee orchis, which I commissioned a little boy to bring from St. Vincent’s rocks for my young botanists,” said Mrs. Porett to Angelina: “you know the flower is so like a bee, that at first sight you might easily mistake it.” Mrs. Porett, to convince Betty Williams that she had no cause for fear, went on before her into the hall; but Betty still hung back, crying —
“It is a pasket full of pees! I saw the pees with my own eyes.”
The noise she made excited the curiosity of the young ladies in the dancing-room: they looked out to see what was the matter.
“Oh, ’tis the wee-wee French prisoner boy, with the bee orchises for us — there, I see him standing in the hall,” cried Clara Hope, and instantly she ran, followed by several of her companions, into the hall.
“You see that they are not bees,” said Mrs. Porett to Betty Williams, as she took several of the flowers in her hand. Betty, half convinced, yet half afraid, moved a few steps into the hall.
“You have no cause for dread,” said Clara Hope; “poor boy, he has nought in his basket that can hurt any body.”
Betty Williams’s heavy foot was now set upon the train of Clara’s gown, and, as the young lady sprang forwards, her gown, which was of thin muslin, was torn so as to excite the commiseration of all her young companions.
“What a terrible rent! and her best gown!” said they. “Poor Clara Hope!”
“Pless us! peg pardon, miss!” cried the awkward, terrified Betty; “peg pardon, miss!”
“Pardon’s granted,” said Clara; and whilst her companions stretched out her train, deploring the length and breadth of her misfortune, she went on speaking to the little French boy. “Poor wee boy! ’tis a sad thing to be in a strange country, far away from one’s ane ane kin and happy hame — poor wee thing,” said she, slipping some money into his hand.
“What a heavenly countenance!” thought Angelina, as she looked at Clara Hope: “Oh, that my Araminta may resemble her!”
“Plait il — take vat you vant — tank you,” said the little boy, offering to Clara Hope his basket of flowers, and a small box of trinkets, which he held in his hand.
“Here’s a many pretty toys — who’ll buy?” cried Clara, turning to her companions.
The young ladies crowded round the box and the basket.
“Is he in distress?” said Angelina; “perhaps I can be of some use to him!” and she put her hand into her pocket, to feel for her purse.
“He’s a very honest, industrious little boy,” said Mrs. Porett, “and he supports his parents by his active ingenuity.”
“And, Louis, is your father sick still?” continued Clara Hope to the poor boy.
“Bien malade! bien malade! very sick! very sick!” said he. The unaffected language of real feeling and benevolence is easily understood, and is never ridiculous; even in the broken English of little Louis, and the broad Scotch tone of Clara, it was both intelligible and agreeable.
Angelina had been for some time past feeling in her pocket for her purse.
“’Tis gone — certainly gone!” she exclaimed: “I’ve lost it! lost my purse! Betty, do you know any thing of it? I had it at Mrs. Plait’s! — What shall I do for this poor little fellow? — This trinket is of gold!” said she, taking from her neck a locket —“Here, my little fellow, I have no money to give you, take this — nay, you must, indeed.”
“Tanks! tanks! bread for my poor fader! joy! joy! — too much joy! too much!”
“You see you were wrong to laugh at her,” whispered Clara Hope to her companions: “I liked her lukes from the first.”
Natural feeling, at this moment, so entirely occupied and satisfied Angelina, that she forgot her sensibility for her unknown friend; and it was not till one of the children observed the lock of hair in her locket that she recollected her accustomed cant of —“Oh, my Araminta! my amiable Araminta! could I part with that hair, more precious than gold?”
“Pless us!” said Betty; “put, if she has lost her purse, who shall pay for the coach, and what will become of our tinners?”
Angelina silenced Betty Williams with peremptory dignity.
Mrs. Porett, who was a good and sensible woman, and who had been interested for our heroine, by her good-nature to the little French boy, followed Miss Warwick as she left the room. “Let me detain you but for a few minutes,” said she, opening the door of a little study. “You have nothing to fear from any impertinent curiosity on my part; but, perhaps, I may be of some assistance to you.”— Miss Warwick could not refuse to be detained a few minutes by so friendly a voice.
“Madam, you have mentioned the name of Araminta several times since you came into this house,” said Mrs. Porett, with something of embarrassment in her manner, for she was afraid of appearing impertinent. “I know, or at least I knew, a lady who writes under that name, and whose real name is Hodges.”
“Oh, a thousand, thousand thanks!” cried Angelina: “tell me, where can I find her?”
“Are you acquainted with her? You seem to be a stranger, young lady, in Bristol. Are you acquainted with Miss Hodges’s whole history?”
“Yes, her whole history; every feeling of her soul; every thought of her mind!” cried Angelina, with enthusiasm. “We have corresponded for two years past.”
Mrs. Porett smiled. “It is not always possible,” said she, “to judge of ladies by their letters. I am not inclined to believe above half what the world says, according to Lord Chesterfield’s allowance for scandalous stories; but it may be necessary to warn you, as you seem very young, that —”
“Madam,” cried Angelina, “young as I am, I know that superior genius and virtue are the inevitable objects of scandal. It is in vain to detain me further.”
“I am truly sorry for it,” said Mrs. Porett; “but, perhaps, you will allow me to tell you, that —”
“No, not a word; not a word more will I hear,” cried our heroine; and she hurried out of the house, and threw herself into the coach. Mrs. Porett contrived, however, to make Betty Williams hear, that the most probable means of gaining any intelligence of Miss Hodges, would be to inquire for her at the shop of Mr. Beatson, who was her printer. To Mr. Beatson’s they drove — though Betty professed that she was half unwilling to inquire for Miss Hodges from any one whose name did not begin with a p, and end with a t.
“What a pity it is,” said Mrs. Porett, when she returned to her pupils —“what a pity it is that this young lady’s friends should permit her to go about in a hackney-coach, with such a strange, vulgar servant girl as that! She is too young to know how quickly, and often how severely, the world judges by appearances. Miss Hope, now we talk of appearances, you forget that your gown is torn, and you do not know, perhaps, that your friend, Lady Frances Somerset —”
“Lady Frances Somerset!” cried Clara Hope —“I love to hear her very name.”
“For which reason you interrupt me the moment I mention it — I have a great mind not to tell you — that Lady Frances Somerset has invited you to go to the play with her to-night:—‘The Merchant of Venice, and the Adopted Child.’”
“Gude-natured Lady Frances Somerset, I’m sure an’ if Clara Hope had been your adopted child twenty times over, you could not have been more kind to her nor you have been. — No, not had she been your are countrywoman, and of your are clan — and all for the same reasons that make some neglect and look down upon her — because Clara is not meikle rich, and is far away from her ane ane friends. — Gude Lady Frances Somerset! Clara Hope luves you in her heart, and she’s as blythe wi’ the thought o’ ganging to see you as if she were going to dear Inverary.”
It is a pity, for the sake of our story, that Miss Warwick did not stay a few minutes longer at Mrs. Porett’s, that she might have heard this eulogium on Lady Frances Somerset, and might have, a second time in one day, discovered that she was on the very brink of meeting with the persons she most dreaded to see; but, however temptingly romantic such an incident would have been, we must, according to our duty as faithful historians, deliver a plain unvarnished tale.
Miss Warwick arrived at Mr. Beatson’s, and as soon as she had pronounced the name of Hodges, the printer called to his devil for a parcel of advertisements, which he put into her hand; they were proposals for printing by subscription a new novel —“The Sorrows of Araminta.”
“Oh, my Araminta! my amiable Araminta! have I found you at last? —The Sorrows of Araminta, a novel, in nine volumes— Oh, charming! —together with a tragedy on the same plan— Delightful! —Subscriptions received at Joseph Beatson’s, printer and bookseller; and by Rachael Hodges— Odious name! —at Mrs. Bertrand’s.”
“Bartrand!— There now you, do ye hear that? the lady lives at Mrs. Bartrand’s: how will you make out now that Bartrand begins with a p, and ends with a t, now?” said the hackney-coachman to Betty, who was standing at the door.
“Pertrant! why,” cried Betty, “what would you have?”
“Silence! O silence!” said Miss Warwick; and she continued reading —“Subscriptions received at Mrs. Bertrand’s.”
“Pertrant, you hear, plockhead, you Irishman!” cried Betty Williams.
“Bartrand — you have no ears, Welshwoman as you are!” retorted Terence O’Grady.
“Subscription two guineas, for the Sorrows of Araminta,” continued our heroine; but, looking up, she saw Betty Williams and the hackney-coachman making menacing faces and gestures at one another.
“Fight it out in the passage, for Heaven’s sake!” said Angelina; “if you must fight, fight out of my sight.”
“For shame, before the young lady!” said Mr. Beatson, holding the hackney-coachman: “have done disputing so loud.”
“I’ve done, but she is wrong,” cried Terence.
“I’ve done, put he is wrong,” said Betty.
Terence was so much provoked by the Welshwoman, that he declared he would not carry her a step further in his coach — that his beasts were tired, and that he must be paid his fare, for that he neither could nor would wait any longer. Betty Williams was desired by Angelina to pay him. She hesitated; but after being assured by Miss Warwick that the debt should be punctually discharged in a few hours, she acknowledged that she had silver enough “in a little box at the bottom of her pocket;” and, after much fumbling, she pulled out a snuff-box, which, she said, had been given to her by her “creat crandmother.”— Whilst she was paying the coachman, the printer’s devil observed one end of a piece of lace hanging out of her pocket; she had, by accident, pulled it out along with the snuff-box.
“And was this your great grandmother’s too?” said the printer’s devil, taking hold of the lace.
Betty started. Angelina was busy, making inquiries from the printer, and she did not see or hear what was passing close to her: the coachman was intent upon the examination of his shillings. Betty, with great assurance, reproved the printer’s devil for touching such lace with his plack fingers.
“’Twas not my Grandmother’s —’tis the young lady’s,” said she: “let it pe, pray — look how you have placked it, and marked it, with plack fingers.”
She put the stolen lace hastily into her pocket, and immediately went out, as Miss Warwick desired, to call another coach.
Before we follow our heroine to Mrs. Bertrand’s, we must beg leave to go, and, if we can, to transport our readers with us, to Lady Frances Somerset’s house, at Clifton.
“Well, how I am to get up this hill again, Heaven knows!” said Lady Diana Chillingworth, who had been prevailed upon to walk down Clifton Hill to the Wells. “Heigho! that sister of mine, Lady Frances, walks, and talks, and laughs, and admires the beauties of nature till I’m half dead.”
“Why, indeed, Lady Frances Somerset, I must allow,” said Miss Burrage, “is not the fittest companion in the world for a person of your ladyship’s nerves; but then it is to be hoped that the glass of water which you have just taken fresh at the pump will be of service, provided the racketing to Bristol to the play don’t counteract it, and undo all again.”
“How I dread going into that Bristol playhouse!” said Miss Burrage to herself —“some of my precious relations may be there to claim me. My aunt Dinah — God bless her for a starched quaker — wouldn’t be seen at a play, I’m sure — so she’s safe; — but the odious sugar-baker’s daughters might be there, dizened out; and between the acts, their great tall figures might rise in judgment against me — spy me out — stare and curtsy — pop — pop — pop at me without mercy, or bawl out across the benches, ‘Cousin Burrage! Cousin Burrage!’ And Lady Diana Chillingworth to hear it! — oh, I should sink into the earth.”
“What amusement,” continued Miss Burrage, addressing herself to Lady Di., “what amusement Lady Frances Somerset can find at a Bristol playhouse, and at this time of the year too, is to me really unaccountable.”
“I do suppose,” replied Lady Diana, “that my sister goes only to please that child —(Clara Hope, I think they call her)— not to please me, I’m sure; — but what is she doing all this time in the pump-room? does she know we are waiting for her? — oh, here she comes. — Frances, I am half dead.”
“Half dead, my dear! well, here is something to bring you to life again,” said Lady Frances: “I do believe I have found out Miss Warwick.”
“I am sure, my dear, that does not revive me — I’ve been almost plagued to death with her already,” said Lady Diana.
“There’s no living in this world without plagues of some sort or other — but the pleasure of doing good makes one forget them all: here, look at this advertisement, my dear,” said Lady Frances: “a gentleman, whom I have just met with in the pump-room, was reading it in the newspaper when I came in, and a whole knot of scandal-mongers were settling who it could possibly be. One snug little man, a Welsh curate, I believe, was certain it was the bar-maid of an inn at Bath, who is said to have inveigled a young nobleman into matrimony. I left the Welshman in the midst of a long story, about his father and a young lady, who lost her shoe on the Welsh mountains, and I ran away with the paper to bring it to you.”
Lady Diana received the paper with an air of reluctance.
“Was not I very fortunate to meet with it?” said Lady Frances.
“I protest I see no good fortune in the business, from beginning to end.”
“Ah, because you are not come to the end yet — look —’tis from Mrs. Hoel, of the inn at Cardiffe, and by the date, she must have been there last week.”
“Who — Mrs. Hoel?”
“Miss Warwick, my dear — I beg pardon for my pronoun — but do read this — eyes — hair — complexion — age — size — it certainly must be Miss Warwick.”
“And what then?” said Lady Di, with provoking coldness, walking on towards home.
“Why, then, my dear, you know we can go to Cardiffe to-morrow morning, find the poor girl, and, before any body knows any thing of the matter, before her reputation is hurt, or you blamed, before any harm can happen, convince the girl of her folly and imprudence, and bring her back to you and common sense.”
“To common sense, and welcome, if you can; but not to me.”
“Not to you! — Nay; but, my dear, what will become of her?”
“Nay; but, my dear Frances, what will the world say?”
“My dear Di., shall I tell you what the world would say?”
“No, Lady Frances, I’ll tell you what the world would say — that Lady Diana Chillingworth’s house was an asylum for runaways.”
“An asylum for nonsense! — I beg your pardon, sister — but it always provokes me to see a person afraid to do what they think right, because, truly, ‘the world will say it is wrong.’ What signifies the uneasiness we may suffer from the idle blame or tittle-tattle of the day, compared with the happiness of a young girl’s whole life, which is at stake?”
“Oh, Lady Frances, that is spoken like yourself — I love you in my heart — that’s right! that’s right!” thought Clara Hope.
Lady Diana fell back a few paces, that she might consult one whose advice she always found agreeable to her own opinions.
“In my opinion,” whispered Miss Burrage to Lady Diana, “you are right, quite right, to have nothing more to do with the happiness of a young lady who has taken such a step.”
They were just leaving St. Vincent’s parade, when they heard the sound of music upon the walk by the river side, and they saw a little boy there, seated at the foot of a tree, playing on the guitar, and singing —
“J’ai quitté mon pays et mes amis, Pour jouer de la guitare, Qui va clin, clin, qui va clin, clin, Qui va clin, clin, clin, clin.”
“Ha! my wee wee friend,” said Clara Hope, “are you here? — I was just thinking of you, just wishing for you. By gude luck, have you the weeny locket about you that the young lady gave you this morning? — the weeny locket, my bonny boy?”
“Plait-il?” said little Louis.
“He don’t understand one word,” said Miss Burrage, laughing sarcastically, “he don’t understand one word of all your bonnys, and wee wees and weenies, Miss Hope; he, unfortunately, don’t understand broad Scotch, and maybe he mayn’t be so great a proficient as you are in boarding-school French; but I’ll try if he can understand me, if you’ll tell me what you want.”
“Such a trinket as this,” said Clara, showing a locket which hung from her neck.
“Ah oui — yes, I comprehend now,” cried the boy, taking from his coat-pocket a small case of trinkets —“la voilà! — here is vat de young lady did give me — good young lady!” said Louis, and he produced the locket.
“I declare,” exclaimed Miss Burrage, catching hold of it, “’tis Miss Warwick’s locket! I’m sure of it — here’s the motto — I’ve read it, and laughed at it twenty times — L’Amie Inconnue.”
“When I heard you all talking just now about that description of the young lady in the newspaper, I cude not but fancy,” said Clara Hope, “that the lady whom I saw this morning must be Miss Warwick.”
“Saw — where?” cried Lady Frances, eagerly.
“At Bristol — at our academy — at Mrs. Porett’s,” said Clara; “but mark me, she is not there now — I do not ken where she may be now.”
“Moi je sais! — I do know de demoiselle did stop in a coach at one house; I was in de street — I can show you de house.”
“Can you so, my good little fellow? then let us begone directly,” said Lady Frances.
“You’ll excuse me, sister,” said Lady Di.
“Excuse you! —I will, but the world will not. You’ll be abused, sister, shockingly abused.”
This assertion made more impression upon Lady Di. Chillingworth than could have been made either by argument or entreaty.
“One really does not know how to act — people take so much notice of every thing that is said and done by persons of a certain rank: if you think that I shall be so much abused — I absolutely do not know what to say.”
“But I thought,” interposed Miss Burrage, “that Lady Frances was going to take you to the play to-night, Miss Hope?”
“Oh, never heed the play — never heed the play, or Clara Hope — never heed taking me to the play: Lady Frances is going to do a better thing. — Come on, my bonny boy,” said she to the little French boy, who was following them.
We must now return to our heroine, whom we left on her way to Mrs. Bertrand’s. Mrs. Bertrand kept a large confectionary and fruit shop in Bristol.
“Please to walk through this way, ma’am — Miss Hodges is above stairs — she shall be apprized directly — Jenny! run up stairs,” said Mrs. Bertrand to her maid —“run up stairs, and tell Miss Hodges here’s a young lady wants to see her in a great hurry — You’d best sit down, ma’am,” continued Mrs. Bertrand to Angelina, “till the girl has been up with the message.”
“Oh, my Araminta! how my heart beats!” exclaimed Miss Warwick.
“How my mouth waters!” cried Betty Williams, looking round at the fruit and confectionaries.
“Would you, ma’am, he pleased,” said Mrs. Bertrand, “to take a glass of ice this warm evening? cream-ice, or water-ice, ma’am? pine-apple or strawberry ice?” As she spoke, Mrs. Bertrand held a salver, covered with ices, toward Miss Warwick: but, apparently, she thought that it was not consistent with the delicacy of friendship to think of eating or drinking when she was thus upon the eve of her first interview with her Araminta. Betty Williams, who was of a different nature from our heroine, saw the salver recede with excessive surprise and regret; she stretched out her hand after it, and seized a glass of raspberry-ice; but no sooner had she tasted it than she made a frightful face, and let the glass fall, exclaiming —
“Pless us! ’tis not as good as cooseherry fool.”
Mrs. Bertrand next offered her a cheesecake, which Betty ate voraciously.
“She’s actually a female Sancho Panza!” thought Angelina: her own more striking resemblance to the female Quixote never occurred to our heroine — so blind are we to our own failings.
“Who is the young lady?” whispered the mistress of the fruit shop to Betty Williams, whilst Miss Warwick was walking — we should say pacing— up and down the room, in anxious solicitude, and evident agitation.
“Hur’s a young lady,” replied Betty, stopping to take a mouthful of cheesecake between every member of her sentence, “a young lady — that has — lost hur —”
“Her heart — so I thought.”
“Hur purse!” said Betty, with an accent, which showed that she thought this the more serious loss of the two.
“Her purse! — that’s bad indeed:— you pay for your own cheesecake and raspberry-ice, and for the glass that you broke,” said Mrs. Bertrand.
“Put hur has a great deal of money in hur trunk, I pelieve, at Llanwaetur,” said Betty.
“Surely Miss Hodges does not know I am here,” cried Miss Warwick —“her Angelina!”
“Ma’am, she’ll be down immediately, I do suppose,” said Mrs. Bertrand. “What was it you pleased called for — angelica, ma’am, did you say? At present we are quite out, I’m ashamed to say, of angelica, ma’am — Well, child,” continued Mrs. Bertrand to her maid, who was at this moment seen passing by the back door of the shop in great haste.
“Ma’am — anan,” said the maid, turning back her cap from off her ear.
“Anan! deaf doll! didn’t you hear me tell you to tell Miss Hodges a lady wanted to speak to her in a great hurry?”
“No, mam,” replied the girl, who spoke in the broad Somersetshire dialect: “I heard you zay, up to Miss Hodges; zoo I thought it was the bottle o’brandy, and zoo I took alung with the tea-kettle — but I’ll go up again now, and zay miss bes in a hurry, az she zays.”
“Brandy!” repeated Miss Warwick, on whom the word seemed to make a great impression.
“Pranty, ay, pranty,” repeated Betty Williams —“our Miss Hodges always takes pranty in her teas at Llanwaetur.”
“Brandy! — then she can’t be my Araminta.”
“Oh, the very same, and no other; you are quite right, ma’am,” said Mrs. Bertrand, “if you mean the same that is publishing the novel, ma’am — ‘The Sorrows of Araminta’— for the reason I know so much about it is, that I take in the subscriptions, and distributed the pur posals.”
Angelina had scarcely time to believe or disbelieve what she heard, before the maid returned, with “Mam, Mizz Hodges haz hur best love to you, mizz — and please to walk up — There be two steps; please to have a care, or you’ll break your neck.”
Before we introduce Angelina to her “unknown friend,” we must relate the conversation which was actually passing between the amiable Araminta and her Orlando, whilst Miss Warwick was waiting in the fruit shop. Our readers will be so good as to picture to themselves a woman, with a face and figure which seemed to have been intended for a man, with a voice and gesture capable of setting even man, “imperial man,” at defiance — such was Araminta. She was, at this time, sitting cross-legged in an arm-chair at a tea-table, on which, beside the tea equipage, was a medley of things of which no prudent tongue or pen would undertake to give a correct inventory. At the feet of this fair lady, kneeling on one knee, was a thin, subdued, simple-looking quaker, of the name of Nathaniel Gazabo.
“But now, Natty,” said Miss Hodges, in a voice more masculine than her looks, “you understand the conditions — If I give you my hand, and make you my husband, it is upon condition that you never contradict any of my opinions: do you promise me that?”
“Yea, verily,” replied Nat.
“And you promise to leave me entirely at liberty to act, as well as to think, in all things as my own independent understanding shall suggest?”
“Yea, verily,” was the man’s response.
“And you will be guided by me in all things?”
“And you will love and admire me all your life, as much as you do now?”
“Swear,” said the unconscionable woman.
“Nay, verily,” replied the meekest of men, “I cannot swear, my Rachel, being a quaker; but I will affirm.”
“Swear, swear,” cried the lady, in an imperious tone, “or I will never be your Araminta.”
“I swear,” said Nat Gazabo, in a timid voice.
“Then, Natty, I consent to be Mrs. Hodges Gazabo. Only remember always to call me your dear Araminta.”
“My dear Araminta! thus,” said he, embracing her, “thus let me thank thee, my dear Araminta!”
It was in the midst of these thanks that the maid interrupted the well-matched pair, with the news that a young lady was below, who was in a great hurry to see Miss Hodges.
“Let her come,” said Miss Hodges; “I suppose it is only one of the Miss Carvers — Don’t stir, Nat; it will vex her to see you kneeling to me — don’t stir, I say —”
“Where is she? Where is my Araminta?” cried Miss Warwick, as the maid was trying to open the outer passage-door for her, which had a bad lock.
“Get up, get up, Natty; and get some fresh water in the tea-kettle — quick!” cried Miss Hodges, and she began to clear away some of the varieties of literature, &c., which lay scattered about the room. Nat, in obedience to her commands, was making his exit with all possible speed, when Angelina entered, exclaiming —
“My amiable Araminta! — My unknown friend!”
“My Angelina! — My charming Angelina!” cried Miss Hodges.
Miss Hodges was not the sort of person our heroine expected to see; — and to conceal the panic, with which the first sight of her unknown friend struck her disappointed imagination, she turned back to listen to the apologies which Nat Gazabo was pouring forth about his awkwardness and the tea-kettle.
“Turn, Angelina, ever dear!” cried Miss Hodges, with the tone and action of a bad actress who is rehearsing an embrace —“Turn, Angelina, ever dear! — thus, thus let us meet, to part no more.”
“But her voice is so loud,” said Angelina to herself, “and her looks so vulgar, and there is such a smell of brandy! — How unlike the elegant delicacy I had expected in my unknown friend!” Miss Warwick involuntarily shrunk from the stifling embrace.
“You are overpowered, my Angelina — lean on me,” said her Araminta.
Nat Gazabo re-entered with the tea-kettle —
“Here’s boiling water, and we’ll have fresh tea in a trice — the young lady’s over-tired, seemingly — Here’s a chair, miss, here’s a chair,” cried Nat. Miss Warwick sunk upon the chair: Miss Hodges seated herself beside her, continuing to address her in a theatrical tone.
“This moment is bliss unutterable! my kind, my noble-minded Angelina, thus to leave all your friends for your Araminta!”— Suddenly changing her voice —“Set the tea-kettle, Nat!”
“Who is this Nat, I wonder?” thought Miss Warwick.
“Well, and tell me,” said Miss Hodges, whose attention was awkwardly divided between the ceremonies of making tea and making speeches —“and tell me, my Angelina — That’s water enough, Nat — and tell me, my Angelina, how did you find me out?”
“With some difficulty, indeed, my Araminta.” Miss Warwick could hardly pronounce the words.
“So kind, so noble-minded,” continued Miss Hodges —“and did you receive my last letter — three sheets? — And how did you contrive — Stoop the kettle, do, Nat.”
“Oh, this odious Nat! how I wish she would send him away!” thought Miss Warwick.
“And tell me, my Araminta — my Angelina I mean — how did you contrive your elopement — and how did you escape from the eye of your aristocratic Argus — how did you escape from all your unfeeling persecutors? — Tell me, tell me all your adventures, my Angelina! — Butter the toast, Nat,” said Miss Hodges who was cutting bread and butter, which she did not do with the celebrated grace of Charlotte, in the Sorrows of Werter.
“I’ll tell you all, my Araminta,” whispered Miss Warwick, “when we are by ourselves.”
“Oh, never mind Nat,” whispered Miss Hodges.
“Couldn’t you tell him,” rejoined Miss Warwick, “that he need not wait any longer?”
“Wait, my dear! why, what do you take him for?”
“Why, is not he your footman?” whispered Angelina.
“My footman! — Nat!” exclaimed Miss Hodges, bursting out a laughing, “my Angelina took you for my footman.”
“Good heavens! what is he?” said Angelina, in a low voice.
“Verily,” said Nat Gazabo, with a sort of bashful simple laugh, “verily, I am the humblest of her servants.”
“And does my Angelina — spare my delicacy,” said Miss Hodges —“does my Angelina not remember, in any of my long letters, the name of — Orlando! — There he stands.”
“Orlando! — Is this gentleman your Orlando, of whom I have heard so much?”
“He! he! he!” simpered Nat. “I am Orlando, of whom you have heard so much; and she —(pointing to Miss Hodges)— she is, to-morrow morning, God willing, to be Mistress Hodges Gazabo.”
“Mrs. Hodges Gazabo, my Araminta!” said Angelina, with astonishment, which she could not suppress.
“Yes, my Angelina: so end ‘The Sorrows of Araminta’— Another cup? — do I make the tea too sweet?” said Miss Hodges, whilst Nat handed the bread and butter to the ladies officiously.
“The man looks like a fool,” thought Miss Warwick.
“Set down the bread and butter, and be quiet, Nat — Then, as soon as the wedding is over, we fly, my Angelina, to our charming cottage in Wales:— there may we bid defiance to the storms of fate —
“‘The world forgetting, by the world forgot.’”
“That,” said Angelina, “‘is the blameless vestal’s lot:’— but you forget that you are to be married, my Araminta; and you forget that, in your letter of three folio sheets, you said not one word to me of this intended marriage.”
“Nay, my dear, blame me not for a want of confidence, that my heart disclaims,” said Miss Hodges: “from the context of my letters, you must have suspected the progress my Orlando had made in my affections; but, indeed, I should not have brought myself to decide apparently so precipitately, had it not been for the opposition, the persecution of my friends — I was determined to show them that I know, and can assert, my right to think and act, upon all occasions, for myself.”
Longer, much longer, Miss Hodges, spoke in the most peremptory voice; but whilst she was declaiming on her favourite topic, her Angelina was “revolving in her altered mind” the strange things which she had seen and heard in the course of the last half-hour; every thing appeared to her in a new light; when she compared the conversation and conduct of Miss Hodges with the sentimental letters of her Araminta; when she compared Orlando in description to Orlando in reality, she could scarcely believe her senses: accustomed as she had been to elegance of manners, the vulgarity and awkwardness of Miss Hodges shocked and disgusted her beyond measure. The disorder, and — for the words must be said — slatternly dirty appearance of her Araminta’s dress, and of every thing in her apartment, were such as would have made a hell of heaven; and the idea of spending her life in a cottage with Mrs. Hodges Gazabo and Nat overwhelmed our heroine with the double fear of wretchedness and ridicule.
“Another cup of tea, my Angelina?” said Miss Hodges, when she had finished her tirade against her persecutors, that is to say, her friends, “another cup, my Angelina? — do, after your journey and fatigue, take another cup.”
“No more, I thank you.”
“Then reach me that tragedy, Nat — you know —”
“Your own tragedy, is it, my dear?” said he.
“Ah, Nat, now! you never can keep a secret,” said Miss Hodges. “I wanted to have surprised my Angelina.”
“I am surprised!” thought Angelina —“oh, how much surprised!”
“I have a motto for our cottage here somewhere,” said Miss Hodges, turning over the leaves of her tragedy —“but I’ll keep that till to-morrow — since to-morrow’s the day sacred to love and friendship.”
Nat, by way of showing his joy in a becoming manner, rubbed his hands, and hummed a tune. His mistress frowned, and bit her lips; but the signals were lost upon him, and he sung out, in an exulting tone —
“When the lads of the village so merrily, ah! Sound their tabours, I’ll hand thee along.”
“Fool! Dolt! Idiot!” cried his Araminta, rising furious —“out of my sight!” Then, sinking down upon the chair, she burst into tears, and threw herself into the arms of her pale, astonished Angelina. “Oh, my Angelina!” she exclaimed, “I am the most ill-matched! most unfortunate! most wretched of women!”
“Don’t be frighted, miss,” said Nat; “she’ll come to again presently —’tis only her way.” As he spoke, he poured out a bumper of brandy, and kneeling, presented it to his mistress. “’Tis the only thing in life does her good,” continued he, “in this sort of fits.”
“Heavens, what a scene!” said Miss Warwick to herself —“and the woman so heavy, I can scarce support her weight — and is this my unknown friend?”
How long Miss Hodges would willingly have continued to sob upon Miss Warwick’s shoulder, or how long that shoulder could possibly have sustained her weight, is a mixed problem in physics and metaphysics, which must for ever remain unsolved: but suddenly a loud scream was heard. Miss Hodges started up — the door was thrown open, and Betty Williams rushed in, crying loudly —“Oh, shave me! shave me! for the love of Cot, shave me, miss!” and, pushing by the swain, who held the unfinished glass of brandy in his hand, she threw herself on her knees at the feet of Angelina.
“Gracious me!” exclaimed Nat, “whatever you are, you need not push one so.”
“What now, Betty Williams? is the wench mad or drunk?” cried Miss Hodges.
“We are to have a mad scene next, I suppose,” said Miss Warwick, calmly —“I am prepared for every thing, after what I have seen.”
Betty Williams continued crying bitterly, and wringing her hands —“Oh, shave me this once, miss! ’tis the first thing of the kind I ever tid, inteet, inteet! Oh, shave me this once — I tid not know it was worth so much as a shilling, and that I could be hanged, inteet — and I—”
Here Betty was interrupted by the entrance of Mrs. Puffit, the milliner, the printer’s devil, and a stern-looking man, to whom Mrs. Puffit, as she came in, said, pointing to Betty Williams and Miss Warwick, “There they are — do your duty, Mr. Constable: I’ll swear to my lace.”
“And I’ll swear to my black thumbs,” said the printer’s devil.
“I saw the lace hanging out of her pocket, and there’s the marks of my fingers upon it, Mr. Constable.”
“Fellow!” cried Miss Hodges, taking the constable by the arm, “this is my apartment, into which no minion of the law has a right to enter; for, in England, every man’s house is his castle.”
“I know that as well as you do, madam!” said the constable; “but I make it a principle to do nothing without a warrant: here’s my warrant.”
“Oh, shave me! the lace is hers inteet!” cried Betty Williams, pointing to Miss Warwick. “Oh, miss is my mistress inteet —”
“Come, mistress or miss, then, you’ll be pleased to come along with me,” said the constable, seizing hold of Angelina —“like mistress, like maid.”
“Villain! unfeeling villain! oh, unhand my Angelina, or I shall die! I shall die!” exclaimed Araminta, falling into the arms of Nat Gazabo, who immediately held the replenished glass of brandy to her lips —“Oh, my Angelina, my Angelina!”
Struck with horror at her situation, Miss Warwick shrunk from the grasp of the constable, and leaned motionless on the back of a chair.
“Come, my angel, as they call you, I think — the lady there has brandy enough, if you want spirits — all the fits and faintings in Christendom won’t serve you now. I’m used to the tricks o’ the trade. — The law must take its course; and if you can’t walk, I must carry you.”
“Touch me at your peril! I am innocent,” said Angelina.
“Innocent — innocence itself! pure, spotless, injured innocence!” cried Miss Hodges. “I shall die! I shall die! I shall die on the spot! barbarous, barbarous villain!”
Whilst Miss Hodges spoke, the ready Nat poured out a fresh glass of that restorative, which he always had ready for cases of life and death; and she screamed and sipped, and sipped and screamed, as the constable took up Angelina in his arms, and carried her towards the door.
“Mrs. Innocence,” said the man, “you shall see whom you shall see.”
Mrs. Puffit opened the door; and, to the utter astonishment of every body present, Lady Diana Chillingworth entered the room, followed by Lady Frances Somerset and Mrs. Bertrand. The constable set down Angelina. Miss Hodges set down the glass of brandy. Mrs. Puffit curtsied. Betty Williams stretched out her arms to Lady Diana, crying, “Shave me! shave me this once!” Miss Warwick hid her face with her hands.
“Only my Valenciennes lace, that has been found in that girl’s pocket, and —” said Mrs. Puffit.
Lady Diana Chillingworth turned away with indescribable haughtiness, and, addressing herself to her sister, said, “Lady Frances Somerset, you would not, I presume, have Lady Diana Chillingworth lend her countenance to such a scene as this — I hope, sister, that you are satisfied now.” As she said these words, her ladyship walked out of the room.
“Never was further from being satisfied in my life,” said Lady Frances.
“If you look at this, my lady,” said the constable, holding out the lace, “you’ll soon be satisfied as to what sort of a young lady that is.”
“Oh, you mistake the young lady,” said Mrs. Bertrand, and she whispered to the constable. “Come away: you may be sure you’ll be satisfied — we shall all be satisfied, handsomely, all in good time. Don’t let the delinquency there on her knees,” added she aloud, pointing to Betty Williams —“don’t let the delinquency there on her knees escape.”
“Come along, mistress,” said the constable, pulling up Betty Williams from her knees. “But I say the law must have its course, if I am not satisfied.”
“Oh, I am confident,” said Mrs. Puffit, the milliner, “we shall all be satisfied, no doubt; but Lady Di. Chillingworth knows my Valenciennes lace, and Miss Burrage too, for they did me this morning the honour —”
“Will you do me the favour,” interrupted Lady Frances Somerset, “to leave us, good Mrs. Puffit, for the present? Here is some mistake — the less noise we make about it the better. You shall be satisfied.”
“Oh, your ladyship — I’m sure, I’m confident — I shan’t utter another syllable — nor never would have articulated a syllable about the lace (though Valenciennes, and worth thirty guineas, if it is worth a farthing), had I had the least intimacy or suspicion the young lady was your la’ship’s protégée. I shan’t, at any rate, utter another syllable.”
Mrs. Puffit, having glibly run off this speech, left the room, and carried in her train the constable and Betty Williams, the printer’s devil, and Mrs. Bertrand, the woman of the house.
Miss Warwick, whose confusion during this whole scene was excessive, stood without power to speak or move.
“Thank God, they are gone!” said Lady Frances; and she went to Angelina, and taking her hands gently from before her face, said, in a soothing tone, “Miss Warwick, your friend, Lady Frances Somerset, you cannot think that she suspects —”
“La, dear, no!” cried Nat Gazabo, who had now sufficiently recovered from his fright and amazement to be able to speak: “Dear heart! who could go for to suspect such a thing? but they made such a bustle and noise, they quite flabbergasted me, so many on them in this small room. Please to sit down, my lady. — Is there any thing I can do?”
“If you could have the goodness, sir, to leave us for a few minutes,” said Lady Frances, in a polite, persuasive manner —“you could have the goodness, sir, to leave us for a few minutes.”
Nat, who was not always spoken to by so gentle a voice, smiled, bowed, and was retiring, when Miss Hodges came forward with an air of defiance: “Aristocratic insolence!” exclaimed she: “Stop, Nat — stir not a foot, at your peril, at the word of command of any of the privileged orders upon earth — stir not a foot, at your peril, at the behest of any titled She in the universe! — Madam, or my lady — or by whatever other name more high, more low, you choose to be addressed — this is my husband.”
“Very probably, madam,” said Lady Frances, with an easy calmness, which provoked Miss Hodges to a louder tone of indignation.
“Stir not a foot, at your peril, Nat,” cried she. “I will defend him, I say, madam, against every shadow, every penumbra of aristocratic insolence.”
“As you and he think proper, madam,” replied Lady Frances. “’Tis easy to defend the gentleman against shadows.”
Miss Hodges marched up and down the room with her arms folded. Nat stood stock still.
“The woman,” whispered Lady Frances to Miss Warwick, “is either mad or drunk — or both; at all events we shall be better in another room.” As she spoke, she drew Miss Warwick’s arm within hers. —“Will you allow aristocratic insolence to pass by you, sir?” said she to Nat Gazabo, who stood like a statue in the doorway — he edged himself aside.
“And is this your independence of soul, my Angelina?” cried Araminta, setting her back to the door, so as effectually to prevent her from passing —“and is this your independence of soul, my Angelina — thus, thus tamely to submit, to resign yourself again to your unfeeling, proud, prejudiced, intellect-lacking persecutors?”
“This lady is my friend, madam,” said Angelina, in as firm and tranquil a tone as she could command, for she was quite terrified by her Araminta’s violence.
“Take your choice, my dear; stay or follow me, as you think best,” said Lady Frances.
“Your friend!” pursued the oratorical lady, detaining Miss Warwick with a heavy hand: “Do you feel the force of the word? Can you feel it, as I once thought you could? Your friend! am not I your friend, your best friend, my Angelina? your own Araminta, your amiable Araminta, your unknown friend?”
“My unknown friend, indeed!” said Angelina. Miss Hodges let go her struggling hand, and Miss Warwick that instant followed Lady Frances, who, having effected her retreat, had by this time gained the staircase.
“Gone!” cried Miss Hodges; “then never will I see or speak to her more. Thus I whistle her off, and let her down the wind to prey at fortune.”
“Gracious heart! what quarrels,” said Nat, “and doings, the night before our wedding-day!”
We leave this well-matched pair to their happy prospects of conjugal union and equality.
Lady Frances, who perceived that Miss Warwick was scarcely able to support herself, led her to a sofa, which she luckily saw through the half-open door of a drawing-room, at the head of the staircase.
“To be taken for a thief! — Oh, to what have I exposed myself!” said Miss Warwick.
“Sit down, my dear, now we are in a room where we need not fear interruption — sit down, and don’t tremble like an aspen leaf,” said Lady Frances Somerset, who saw that at this moment, reproaches would have been equally unnecessary and cruel.
Unused to be treated with judicious kindness, Angelina’s heart was deeply touched by it, and she opened her whole mind to Lady Frances, with the frankness of a young person conscious of her own folly, not desirous to apologize or extenuate, but anxious to regain the esteem of a friend.
“To be sure, my dear, it was, as you say, rather foolish to set out in quest of an unknown friend,” said Lady Frances, after listening to the confessions of Angelina. “And why, after all, was it necessary to have an elopement?”
“Oh, madam, I am sensible of my folly — I had long formed a project of living in a cottage in Wales — and Miss Burrage described Wales to me as a terrestrial paradise.”
“Miss Burrage! then why did she not go to paradise along with you?” said Lady Frances.
“I don’t know — she was was so much attached to Lady Di. Chillingworth, she said, she could never think of leaving her: she charged me never to mention the cottage scheme to Lady Di., who would only laugh at it. Indeed, Lady Di. was almost always out whilst we were in London, or dressing, or at cards, and I could seldom speak to her, especially about cottages; and I wished for a friend, to whom I could open my whole heart, and whom I could love and esteem, and who should have the same tastes and notions with myself.”
“I am sorry that last condition is part of your definition of a friend,” said Lady Frances, smiling; “for I will not swear that my notions are the same as yours, but yet I think you would have found me as good a friend as this Araminta of yours. Was it necessary to perfect felicity to have an unknown friend?”
“Ah! there was my mistake,” said Miss Warwick. “I had read Araminta’s writings, and they speak so charmingly of friendship and felicity, that I thought
‘Those best can paint them who can feel them most.’”
“No uncommon mistake,” said Lady Frances.
“But I am fully sensible of my folly,” said Angelina.
“Then there is no occasion to say any more about it at present — to-morrow, as you like romances, we’ll read Arabella, or the Female Quixote; and you shall tell me which, of all your acquaintance, the heroine resembles most. And in the mean time, as you seem to have satisfied your curiosity about your unknown friend, will you come home with me?”
“Oh, madam,” said Angelina, with emotion, “your goodness —”
“But we have not time to talk of my goodness yet — stay — let me see — yes, it will be best that it should be known that you are with us as soon as possible — for there is a thing, my dear, of which, perhaps, you are not fully sensible — of which you are too young to be fully sensible — that, to people who have nothing to do or to say, scandal is a necessary luxury of life; and that, by such a step as you have taken, you have given room enough for scandal-mongers to make you and your friends completely miserable.”
Angelina burst into tears — though a sentimental lady, she had not yet acquired the art of bursting into tears upon every trifling occasion. Hers were tears of real feeling. Lady Frances was glad to see that she had made a sufficient impression upon her mind; but she assured Angelina that she did not intend to torment her with useless lectures and reproaches. Lady Frances Somerset understood the art of giving advice rather better than Lady Diana Chillingworth.
“I do not mean, my dear,” said Lady Frances, “to make you miserable for life — but I mean to make an impression upon you that may make you prudent and happy for life. So don’t cry till you make your eyes so red as not to be fit to be seen at the play to-night, where they must — positively — be seen.”
“But Lady Diana is below,” said Miss Warwick: “I am ashamed and afraid to see her again.”
“It will be difficult, but I hope not impossible, to convince my sister,” said Lady Frances, “that you clearly understand that you have been a simpleton; but that a simpleton of sixteen is more an object of mercy than a simpleton of sixty — so my verdict is — Guilty; — but recommended to mercy.”
By this mercy Angelina was more touched than she could have been by the most severe reproaches.
Whilst the preceding conversation was passing, Lady Diana Chillingworth was in Mrs. Bertrand’s fruit-shop, occupied with her smelling-bottle and Miss Burrage. Clara Hope was there also, and Mrs. Puffit, the milliner, and Mrs. Bertrand, who was assuring her ladyship that not a word of the affair about the young lady and the lace should go out of her house.
“Your la’ship need not be in the least uneasy,” said Mrs. Bertrand, “for I have satisfied the constable, and satisfied every body; and the constable allows Miss Warwick’s name was not mentioned in the warrant; and as to the servant girl, she’s gone before the magistrate, who, of course, will send her to the house of correction; but that will no ways implicate the young lady, and nothing shall transpire from this house detrimental to the young lady, who is under your la’ship’s protection. And I’ll tell your la’ship how Mrs. Puffit and I have settled to tell the story: with your ladyship’s approbation, I shall say —”
“Nothing, if you please,” said her ladyship, with more than her usual haughtiness. “The young lady to whom you allude is under Lady Frances Somerset’s protection, not mine; and whatever you do or say, I beg that in this affair the name of Lady Diana Chillingworth may not be used.”
She turned her back upon the disconcerted milliner as she finished this speech, and walked to the furthest end of the long room, followed by the constant flatterer of all her humours, Miss Burrage.
The milliner and Mrs. Bertrand now began to console themselves for the mortification they had received from her ladyship’s pride, and for the insolent forgetfulness of her companion, by abusing them both in a low voice. Mrs. Bertrand began with, “Her ladyship’s so touchy and so proud; she’s as high as the moon, and higher.”
“Oh, all the Chillingworths, by all accounts, are so,” said Mrs. Puffit; “but then, to be sure, they have a right to be so if any body has, for they certainly are real high-horn people. But I can’t tolerate to see some people, that aren’t no ways born nor entitled to it, give themselves such airs as some people do. Now, there’s that Miss Burrage, that pretends not to know me, ma’am.”
“And me, ma’am — just the same: such provoking assurance — I that knew her from this high.”
“On St. Augustin’s Back, you know,” said Mrs. Puffit.
“On St. Augustin’s Back, you know,” echoed Mrs. Bertrand.
“So I told her this morning, ma’am,” said Mrs. Puffit.
“And so I told her this evening, ma’am, when the three Miss Herrings came in to give me a call in their way to the play; girls that she used to walk with, ma’am, for ever and ever in the green, you know.”
“Yes; and that she was always glad to drink tea with, ma’am, when asked, you know,” said Mrs. Puffit.
“Well, ma’am,” pursued Mrs. Bertrand, “here she had the impudence to pretend not to know them. She takes up her glass — my Lady Di. herself couldn’t have done it better, and squeezes up her ugly face this way, pretending to be near-sighted, though she can see as well as you or I can.”
“Such airs! she near-sighted!” said Mrs. Puffit: “what will the world come to!”
“Oh, I wish her pride may have a fall,” resumed the provoked milliner, as soon as she had breath. “I dare to say now she wouldn’t know her own relations if she was to meet them; I’d lay any wager she would not vouchsafe a curtsy to that good old John Barker, the friend of her father, you know, who gave up to this Miss Burrage I don’t know how many hundreds of pounds, that were due to him, or else miss wouldn’t have had a farthing in the world; yet now, I’ll be bound, she’d forget this as well as St. Augustin’s Back, and wouldn’t know John Barker from Abraham; and I don’t doubt that she’d pull out her glass at her aunt Dinah, because she is a cheesemonger’s widow.”
“Oh no,” said Mrs. Bertrand, “she couldn’t have the baseness to be near-sighted to good Dinah Plait, that bred her up, and was all in all to her.”
Just as Mrs. Bertrand finished speaking, into the fruit-shop walked the very persons of whom she had been talking — Dinah Plait and Mr. Barker.
“Mrs. Dinah Plait, I declare!” exclaimed Mrs. Bertrand.
“I never was so glad to see you, Mrs. Plait and Mr. Barker, in all my days,” said Mrs. Puffit.
“Why you should be so particularly glad to see me, Mrs. Puffit, I don’t know,” said Mr. Barker, laughing; “but I’m not surprised Dinah Plait should he a welcome guest wherever she goes, especially with a purse full of guineas in her hand.”
“Friend Bertrand,” said Dinah Plait, producing a purse which she held under her cloak, “I am come to restore this purse to its rightful owner: after a great deal of trouble, John Barker (who never thinks it a trouble to do good) hath traced her to your house.”
“There is a young lady here, to be sure,” said Mrs. Bertrand, “but you can’t see her just at present, for she is talking on petticlar business with my Lady Frances Somerset above stairs.”
“Tis well,” said Dinah Plait: “I would willingly restore this purse, not to the young creature herself, but to some of her friends — for I fear she is not quite in a right state of mind. If I could see any of the young lady’s friends.”
“Miss Burrage,” cried Mrs. Bertrand, in a tone of voice so loud that she could not avoid hearing it, “are not you one of the young lady’s friends?”
“What young lady’s friend?” replied Miss Burrage, without stirring from her seat.
“Miss Burrage, here’s a purse for a young lady,” said Mrs. Puffit.
“A purse for whom? Where?” said Miss Burrage, at last deigning to rise, and come out of her recess.
“There, ma’am,” said the milliner. “Now for her glass!” whispered Mrs. Puffit to Mrs. Bertrand. And, exactly as it had been predicted, Miss Burrage eyed her aunt Dinah through her glass, pretending not to know her. “The purse is not mine,” said she, coolly: “I know nothing of it — nothing.”
“Hetty!” exclaimed her aunt; but as Miss Burrage still eyed her through her glass with unmoved invincible assurance, Dinah thought that, however strong the resemblance, she was mistaken. “No, it can’t be Hetty. I beg pardon, madam,” said she, “but I took you for — Did not I hear you say the name of Burrage, friend Puffit?”
“Yes, Burrage; one of the Burrages of Dorsetshire,” said the milliner, with malicious archness.
“One of the Burrages of Dorsetshire: I beg pardon. But did you ever see such a likeness, friend Barker, to my poor niece, Hetty Burrage?”
Miss Burrage, who overheard these words, immediately turned her back upon her aunt. “A grotesque statue of starch — one of your quakers, I think, they call themselves: Bristol is full of such primitive figures,” said Miss Burrage to Clara Hope, and she walked back to the recess and to Lady Di.
“So like, voice and all, to my poor Hester,” said Dinah Plait, and she wiped the tears from her eyes. “Though Hetty has neglected me so of late, I have a tenderness for her; we cannot but have some for our own relations.”
“Grotesque or not, ’tis a statue that seems to have a heart, and a gude one,” said Clara Hope.
“I wish we could say the same of every body,” said Mrs. Bertrand.
All this time, old Mr. Barker, leaning on his cane, had been silent: “Burrage of Dorsetshire!” said he; “I’ll soon see whether she be or no; for Hetty has a wart on her chin that I cannot forget, let her forget whom and what she pleases.”
Mr. Barker, who was a plain-spoken, determined man, followed the young lady to the recess; and, after looking her full in the face, exclaimed in a loud voice, “Here’s the wart! —’tis Hetty!”
“Sir! — wart! — man! — Lady Di.!” cried Miss Burrage, in accents of the utmost distress and vexation.
Mr. Barker, regardless of her frowns and struggles, would by no means relinquish her hand; but leading, or rather pulling her forwards, he went on with barbarous steadiness: “Dinah,” said he, “’tis your own niece. Hetty, ’tis your own aunt, that bred you up! What, struggle — Burrage of Dorsetshire!”
“There certainly,” said Lady Diana Chillingworth, in a solemn tone, “is a conspiracy, this night, against my poor nerves. These people, amongst them, will infallibly surprise me to death. What is the matter now? — why do you drag the young lady, sir? She came here with me, sir — with Lady Diana Chillingworth; and, consequently, she is not a person to be insulted.”
“Insult her!” said Mr. Barker, whose sturdy simplicity was not to be baffled or disconcerted either by the cunning of Miss Burrage, or by the imposing manner and awful name of Lady Diana Chillingworth. “Insult her! why, ’tis she insults us; she won’t know us.”
“How should Miss Burrage know you, sir, or any body here?” said Lady Diana, looking round, as if upon beings of a species different from her own.
“How should she know her own aunt that bred her up?” said the invincible John Barker, “and me who have had her on my knee a hundred times, giving her barley-sugar till she was sick?”
“Sick! I am sure you make me sick,” said Lady Diana. “Sir, that young lady is one of the Burrages of Dorsetshire, as good a family as any in England.”
“Madam,” said John Barker, replying in a solemnity of tone equal to her ladyship’s, “that young lady is one of the Burrages of Bristol, drysalters; niece to Dinah Plait, who is widow to a man, who was, in his time, as honest a cheesemonger as any in England.”
“Miss Burrage! — My God! — don’t you speak!” cried Lady Diana, in a voice of terror.
“The young lady is bashful, my lady, among strangers,” said Mrs. Bertrand.
“Oh, Hester Burrage, is this kind of thee?” said Dinah Plait, with in accent of mixed sorrow and affection; “but thou art my niece, and I forgive thee.”
“A cheesemonger’s niece!” cried Lady Diana, with horror; “how have I been deceived! But this is the consequence of making acquaintance at Buxton, and those watering-places: I’ve done with her, however. Lord bless me! here comes my sister, Lady Frances! Good heavens! my dear,” continued her ladyship, going to meet her sister, and drawing her into the recess at the farthest end of the room, “here are more misfortunes — misfortunes without end. What will the world say? Here’s this Miss Burrage — take no more notice of her, sister; she’s an impostor; who do you think she turns out to be? Daughter to a drysalter, niece to a cheesemonger! Only conceive!-a person that has been going about with me every where! — What will the world say?”
“That it is very imprudent to have unknown friends, my dear,” replied Lady Frances. “The best thing you can possibly do is to say nothing about the matter, and to receive this penitent ward of yours without reproaches; for if you talk of her unknown friends, the world will certainly talk of yours.”
Lady Diana drew back with haughtiness when her sister offered to put Miss Warwick’s hands into hers; but she condescended to say, after an apparent struggle with herself, “I am happy to hear, Miss Warwick, that you have returned to your senses. Lady Frances takes you under her protection, I understand; at which, for all our sakes, I rejoice; and I have only one piece of advice, Miss Warwick, to give you —”
“Keep it till after the play, my dear Diana,” whispered Lady Frances; “it will have more effect.”
“The play! — Bless me!” said Lady Diana, “why, you have contrived to make Miss Warwick fit to be seen, I protest. But, after all I have gone through to-night, how can I appear in public? My dear, this Miss Burrage’s business has given me such a shock — such nervous affections!”
“Nervous affections! — Some people, I do believe, have none but nervous affections,” thought Lady Frances.
“Permit me,” said Mrs. Dinah Plait, coming up to Lady Frances, and presenting Miss Warwick’s purse —“permit me, as thou seemest to be a friend to this young lady, to restore to thee her purse, which she left by mistake at my house this forenoon. I hope she is better, poor thing!”
“She is better, and I thank you for her, madam,” said Lady Frances, who was struck with the obliging manner and benevolent countenance of Dinah Plait, and who did not think herself contaminated by standing in the same room with the widow of a cheesemonger.
“Let me thank you myself, madam,” said Angelina; “I am perfectly in my senses now, I can assure you; and I shall never forget the kindness which you and this benevolent gentleman showed me when you thought I was in real distress.”
“Some people are more grateful than other people,” said Mrs. Puffit, looking at Miss Burrage, who in mortified, sullen silence, followed the aunt and the benefactor of whom she was ashamed, and who had reason to be ashamed of her.
We do not imagine that our readers can be much interested for a young lady who was such a compound of pride and meanness; we shall therefore only add, that her future life was spent on St. Augustin’s Back, where she made herself at once as ridiculous and as unhappy as she deserved to be.
As for our heroine, under the friendly and judicious care of Lady Frances Somerset, she acquired that which is more useful to the possessor than genius — good sense. Instead of rambling over the world in search of an unknown friend, she attached herself to those of whose worth she received proofs more convincing than a letter of three folio sheets, stuffed with sentimental nonsense. In short, we have now, in the name of Angelina Warwick, the pleasure to assure all those whom it may concern, that it is possible for a young lady of sixteen to cure herself of the affectation of sensibility, and the folly of romance.
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