To which we will prefix no preface.
The doctor found Amelia alone, for Booth was gone to walk with his new-revived acquaintance, Captain Trent, who seemed so pleased with the renewal of his intercourse with his old brother-officer, that he had been almost continually with him from the time of their meeting at the drum.
Amelia acquainted the doctor with the purport of her message, as follows: “I ask your pardon, my dear sir, for troubling you so often with my affairs; but I know your extreme readiness, as well as ability, to assist any one with your advice. The fact is, that my husband hath been presented by Colonel James with two tickets for a masquerade, which is to be in a day or two, and he insists so strongly on my going with him, that I really do not know how to refuse without giving him some reason; and I am not able to invent any other than the true one, which you would not, I am sure, advise me to communicate to him. Indeed I had a most narrow escape the other day; for I was almost drawn in inadvertently by a very strange accident, to acquaint him with the whole matter.” She then related the serjeant’s dream, with all the consequences that attended it.
The doctor considered a little with himself, and then said, “I am really, child, puzzled as well as you about this matter. I would by no means have you go to the masquerade; I do not indeed like the diversion itself, as I have heard it described to me; not that I am such a prude to suspect every woman who goes there of any evil intentions; but it is a pleasure of too loose and disorderly a kind for the recreation of a sober mind. Indeed, you have still a stronger and more particular objection. I will try myself to reason him out of it.”
“Indeed it is impossible,” answered she; “and therefore I would not set you about it. I never saw him more set on anything. There is a party, as they call it, made on the occasion; and he tells me my refusal will disappoint all.”
“I really do not know what to advise you,” cries the doctor; “I have told you I do not approve of these diversions; but yet, as your husband is so very desirous, I cannot think there will be any harm in going with him. However, I will consider of it, and do all in my power for you.”
Here Mrs. Atkinson came in, and the discourse on this subject ceased; but soon after Amelia renewed it, saying there was no occasion to keep anything a secret from her friend. They then fell to debating on the subject, but could not come to any resolution. But Mrs. Atkinson, who was in an unusual flow of spirits, cried out, “Fear nothing, my dear Amelia, two women surely will be too hard for one man. I think, doctor, it exceeds Virgil:
Una dolo divum si faemina victa duorum est.”
“Very well repeated, indeed!” cries the doctor. “Do you understand all Virgil as well as you seem to do that line?”
“I hope I do, sir,” said she, “and Horace too; or else my father threw away his time to very little purpose in teaching me.”
“I ask your pardon, madam,” cries the doctor. “I own it was an impertinent question.”
“Not at all, sir,” says she; “and if you are one of those who imagine women incapable of learning, I shall not be offended at it. I know the common opinion; but
Interdum vulgus rectum videt, est ubi peccat.”
“If I was to profess such an opinion, madam,” said the doctor, “Madam Dacier and yourself would bear testimony against me. The utmost indeed that I should venture would be to question the utility of learning in a young lady’s education.”
“I own,” said Mrs. Atkinson, “as the world is constituted, it cannot be as serviceable to her fortune as it will be to that of a man; but you will allow, doctor, that learning may afford a woman, at least, a reasonable and an innocent entertainment.”
“But I will suppose,” cried the doctor, “it may have its inconveniences. As, for instance, if a learned lady should meet with an unlearned husband, might she not be apt to despise him?”
“I think not,” cries Mrs. Atkinson — “and, if I may be allowed the instance, I think I have shewn, myself, that women who have learning themselves can be contented without that qualification in a man.”
“To be sure,” cries the doctor, “there may be other qualifications which may have their weight in the balance. But let us take the other side of the question, and suppose the learned of both sexes to meet in the matrimonial union, may it not afford one excellent subject of disputation, which is the most learned?”
“Not at all,” cries Mrs. Atkinson; “for, if they had both learning and good sense, they would soon see on which side the superiority lay.”
“But if the learned man,” said the doctor, “should be a little unreasonable in his opinion, are you sure that the learned woman would preserve her duty to her husband, and submit?”
“But why,” cries Mrs. Atkinson, “must we necessarily suppose that a learned man would be unreasonable?”
“Nay, madam,” said the doctor, “I am not your husband; and you shall not hinder me from supposing what I please. Surely it is not such a paradox to conceive that a man of learning should be unreasonable. Are there no unreasonable opinions in very learned authors, even among the critics themselves? For instance, what can be a more strange, and indeed unreasonable opinion, than to prefer the Metamorphoses of Ovid to the AEneid of Virgil?”
“It would be indeed so strange,” cries the lady, “that you shall not persuade me it was ever the opinion of any man.”
“Perhaps not,” cries the doctor; “and I believe you and I should not differ in our judgments of any person who maintained such an opinion — What a taste must he have!”
“A most contemptible one indeed,” cries Mrs. Atkinson.
“I am satisfied,” cries the doctor. “And in the words of your own Horace, Verbum non amplius addam.”
“But how provoking is this,” cries Mrs. Atkinson, “to draw one in such a manner! I protest I was so warm in the defence of my favourite Virgil, that I was not aware of your design; but all your triumph depends on a supposition that one should be so unfortunate as to meet with the silliest fellow in the world.”
“Not in the least,” cries the doctor. “Doctor Bentley was not such a person; and yet he would have quarrelled, I am convinced, with any wife in the world, in behalf of one of his corrections. I don’t suppose he would have given up his Ingentia Fata to an angel.”
“But do you think,” said she, “if I had loved him, I would have contended with him?”
“Perhaps you might sometimes,” said the doctor, “be of these sentiments; but you remember your own Virgil — Varium et mutabile semper faemina.”
“Nay, Amelia,” said Mrs. Atkinson, “you are now concerned as well as I am; for he hath now abused the whole sex, and quoted the severest thing that ever was said against us, though I allow it is one of the finest.”
“With all my heart, my dear,” cries Amelia. “I have the advantage of you, however, for I don’t understand him.”
“Nor doth she understand much better than yourself,” cries the doctor; “or she would not admire nonsense, even though in Virgil.”
“Pardon me, sir,” said she.
“And pardon me, madam,” cries the doctor, with a feigned seriousness; “I say, a boy in the fourth form at Eton would be whipt, or would deserve to be whipt at least, who made the neuter gender agree with the feminine. You have heard, however, that Virgil left his AEneid incorrect; and, perhaps, had he lived to correct it, we should not have seen the faults we now see in it.”
“Why, it is very true as you say, doctor,” cries Mrs. Atkinson; “there seems to be a false concord. I protest I never thought of it before.”
“And yet this is the Virgil,” answered the doctor, “that you are so fond of, who hath made you all of the neuter gender; or, as we say in English, he hath made mere animals of you; for, if we translate it thus,
“Woman is a various and changeable animal,
“there will be no fault, I believe, unless in point of civility to the ladies.”
Mrs. Atkinson had just time to tell the doctor he was a provoking creature, before the arrival of Booth and his friend put an end to that learned discourse, in which neither of the parties had greatly recommended themselves to each other; the doctor’s opinion of the lady being not at all heightened by her progress in the classics, and she, on the other hand, having conceived a great dislike in her heart towards the doctor, which would have raged, perhaps, with no less fury from the consideration that he had been her husband.
What happened at the masquerade.
From this time to the day of the masquerade nothing happened of consequence enough to have a place in this history.
On that day Colonel James came to Booth’s about nine in the evening, where he stayed for Mrs. James, who did not come till near eleven. The four masques then set out together in several chairs, and all proceeded to the Haymarket.
When they arrived at the Opera-house the colonel and Mrs. James presently left them; nor did Booth and his lady remain long together, but were soon divided from each other by different masques.
A domino soon accosted the lady, and had her away to the upper end of the farthest room on the right hand, where both the masques sat down; nor was it long before the he domino began to make very fervent love to the she. It would, perhaps, be tedious to the reader to run through the whole process, which was not indeed in the most romantick stile. The lover seemed to consider his mistress as a mere woman of this world, and seemed rather to apply to her avarice and ambition than to her softer passions.
As he was not so careful to conceal his true voice as the lady was, she soon discovered that this lover of her’s was no other than her old friend the peer, and presently a thought suggested itself to her of making an advantage of this accident. She gave him therefore an intimation that she knew him, and expressed some astonishment at his having found her out. “I suspect,” says she, “my lord, that you have a friend in the woman where I now lodge, as well as you had in Mrs. Ellison.” My lord protested the contrary. To which she answered, “Nay, my lord, do not defend her so earnestly till you are sure I should have been angry with her.”
At these words, which were accompanied with a very bewitching softness, my lord flew into raptures rather too strong for the place he was in. These the lady gently checked, and begged him to take care they were not observed; for that her husband, for aught she knew, was then in the room.
Colonel James came now up, and said, “So, madam, I have the good fortune to find you again; I have been extremely miserable since I lost you.” The lady answered in her masquerade voice that she did not know him. “I am Colonel James,” said he, in a whisper. “Indeed, sir,” answered she, “you are mistaken; I have no acquaintance with any Colonel James.” “Madam,” answered he, in a whisper likewise, “I am positive I am not mistaken, you are certainly Mrs. Booth.” “Indeed, sir,” said she, “you are very impertinent, and I beg you will leave me.” My lord then interposed, and, speaking in his own voice, assured the colonel that the lady was a woman of quality, and that they were engaged in a conversation together; upon which the colonel asked the lady’s pardon; for, as there was nothing remarkable in her dress, he really believed he had been mistaken.
He then went again a hunting through the rooms, and soon after found Booth walking without his mask between two ladies, one of whom was in a blue domino, and the other in the dress of a shepherdess. “Will,” cries the colonel, “do you know what is become of our wives; for I have seen neither of them since we have been in the room?” Booth answered, “That he supposed they were both together, and they should find them by and by.” “What!” cries the lady in the blue domino, “are you both come upon duty then with your wives? as for yours, Mr. Alderman,” said she to the colonel, “I make no question but she is got into much better company than her husband’s.” “How can you be so cruel, madam?” said the shepherdess; “you will make him beat his wife by and by, for he is a military man I assure you.” “In the trained bands, I presume,” cries the domino, “for he is plainly dated from the city.” “I own, indeed,” cries the other, “the gentleman smells strongly of Thames-street, and, if I may venture to guess, of the honourable calling of a taylor.”
“Why, what the devil hast thou picked up here?” cries James.
“Upon my soul, I don’t know,” answered Booth; “I wish you would take one of them at least.”
“What say you, madam?” cries the domino, “will you go with the colonel? I assure you, you have mistaken your man, for he is no less a person than the great Colonel James himself.”
“No wonder, then, that Mr. Booth gives him his choice of us; it is the proper office of a caterer, in which capacity Mr. Booth hath, I am told, the honour to serve the noble colonel.”
“Much good may it do you with your ladies!” said James; “I will go in pursuit of better game.” At which words he walked off.
“You are a true sportsman,” cries the shepherdess; “for your only pleasure, I believe, lies in the pursuit.”
“Do you know the gentleman, madam?” cries the domino.
“Who doth not know him?” answered the shepherdess.
“What is his character?” cries the domino; “for, though I have jested with him, I only know him by sight.”
“I know nothing very particular in his character,” cries the shepherdess. “He gets every handsome woman he can, and so they do all.”
“I suppose then he is not married?” said the domino.
“O yes! and married for love too,” answered the other; “but he hath loved away all his love for her long ago, and now, he says, she makes as fine an object of hatred. I think, if the fellow ever appears to have any wit, it is when he abuses his wife; and, luckily for him, that is his favourite topic. I don’t know the poor wretch, but, as he describes her, it is a miserable animal.”
“I know her very well,” cries the other; “and I am much mistaken if she is not even with him; but hang him! what is become of Booth?”
At this instant a great noise arose near that part where the two ladies were. This was occasioned by a large assembly of young fellows whom they call bucks, who were got together, and were enjoying, as the phrase is, a letter, which one of them had found in the room.
Curiosity hath its votaries among all ranks of people; whenever therefore an object of this appears it is as sure of attracting a croud in the assemblies of the polite as in those of their inferiors.
When this croud was gathered together, one of the bucks, at the desire of his companions, as well as of all present, performed the part of a public orator, and read out the following letter, which we shall give the reader, together with the comments of the orator himself, and of all his audience.
The orator then, being mounted on a bench, began as follows:
“Here beginneth the first chapter of — saint — Pox on’t, Jack, what is the saint’s name? I have forgot.”
“Timothy, you blockhead,” answered another; “ — Timothy.”
“Well, then,” cries the orator, “of Saint Timothy.
“‘SIR, — I am very sorry to have any occasion of writing on the following subject in a country that is honoured with the name of Christian; much more am I concerned to address myself to a man whose many advantages, derived both from nature and fortune, should demand the highest return of gratitude to the great Giver of all those good things. Is not such a man guilty of the highest ingratitude to that most beneficent Being, by a direct and avowed disobedience of his most positive laws and commands?
“‘I need not tell you that adultery is forbid in the laws of the decalogue; nor need I, I hope, mention that it is expressly forbid in the New Testament.’
“You see, therefore,” said the orator, “what the law is, and therefore none of you will be able to plead ignorance when you come to the Old Bailey in the other world. But here goes again:—
“‘If it had not been so expressly forbidden in Scripture, still the law of Nature would have yielded light enough for us to have discovered the great horror and atrociousness of this crime.
“‘And accordingly we find that nations, where the Sun of righteousness hath yet never shined, have punished the adulterer with the most exemplary pains and penalties; not only the polite heathens, but the most barbarous nations, have concurred in these; in many places the most severe and shameful corporal punishments, and in some, and those not a few, death itself hath been inflicted on this crime.
“‘And sure in a human sense there is scarce any guilt which deserves to be more severely punished. It includes in it almost every injury and every mischief which one man can do to, or can bring on, another. It is robbing him of his property — ’
“Mind that, ladies,” said the orator;” you are all the property of your husbands. — ‘And of that property which, if he is a good man, he values above all others. It is poisoning that fountain whence he hath a right to derive the sweetest and most innocent pleasure, the most cordial comfort, the most solid friendship, and most faithful assistance in all his affairs, wants, and distresses. It is the destruction of his peace of mind, and even of his reputation. The ruin of both wife and husband, and sometimes of the whole family, are the probable consequence of this fatal injury. Domestic happiness is the end of almost all our pursuits, and the common reward of all our pains. When men find themselves for ever barred from this delightful fruition, they are lost to all industry, and grow careless of all their worldly affairs. Thus they become bad subjects, bad relations, bad friends, and bad men. Hatred and revenge are the wretched passions which boil in their minds. Despair and madness very commonly ensue, and murder and suicide often close the dreadful scene.’
“Thus, gentlemen and ladies, you see the scene is closed. So here ends the first act — and thus begins the second:—
“‘I have here attempted to lay before you a picture of this vice, the horror of which no colours of mine can exaggerate. But what pencil can delineate the horrors of that punishment which the Scripture denounces against it?
“‘And for what will you subject yourself to this punishment? or for what reward will you inflict all this misery on another? I will add, on your friend? for the possession of a woman; for the pleasure of a moment? But, if neither virtue nor religion can restrain your inordinate appetites, are there not many women as handsome as your friend’s wife, whom, though not with innocence, you may possess with a much less degree of guilt? What motive then can thus hurry you on to the destruction of yourself and your friend? doth the peculiar rankness of the guilt add any zest to the sin? doth it enhance the pleasure as much as we may be assured it will the punishment?
“‘But if you can be so lost to all sense of fear, and of shame, and of goodness, as not to be debarred by the evil which you are to bring on yourself, by the extreme baseness of the action, nor by the ruin in which you are to involve others, let me still urge the difficulty, I may say, the impossibility of the success. You are attacking a fortress on a rock; a chastity so strongly defended, as well by a happy natural disposition of mind as by the strongest principles of religion and virtue, implanted by education and nourished and improved by habit, that the woman must be invincible even without that firm and constant affection of her husband which would guard a much looser and worse-disposed heart. What therefore are you attempting but to introduce distrust, and perhaps disunion, between an innocent and a happy couple, in which too you cannot succeed without bringing, I am convinced, certain destruction on your own head?
“‘Desist, therefore, let me advise you, from this enormous crime; retreat from the vain attempt of climbing a precipice which it is impossible you should ever ascend, where you must probably soon fall into utter perdition, and can have no other hope but of dragging down your best friend into perdition with you.
“‘I can think of but one argument more, and that, indeed, a very bad one; you throw away that time in an impossible attempt, which might, in other places, crown your sinful endeavours with success.’
“And so ends the dismal ditty.”
“D— n me,” cries one, “did ever mortal hear such d — ned stuff?”
“Upon my soul,” said another, “I like the last argument well enough. There is some sense in that; for d — n me if I had not rather go to D— g — ss at any time than follow a virtuous b —— for a fortnight.”
“Tom,” says one of them, “let us set the ditty to music; let us subscribe to have it set by Handel; it will make an excellent oratorio.”
“D— n me, Jack,” says another, “we’ll have it set to a psalm-tune, and we’ll sing it next Sunday at St James’s church, and I’ll bear a bob, d — n me.”
“Fie upon it! gentlemen, fie upon it!” said a frier, who came up; “do you think there is any wit and humour in this ribaldry; or, if there were, would it make any atonement for abusing religion and virtue?”
“Heyday!” cries one, “this is a frier in good earnest.”
“Whatever I am,” said the frier, “I hope at least you are what you appear to be. Heaven forbid, for the sake of our posterity, that you should be gentlemen.”
“Jack,” cries one, “let us toss the frier in a blanket.”
“Me in a blanket?” said the frier: “by the dignity of man, I will twist the neck of every one of you as sure as ever the neck of a dunghill-cock was twisted.” At which words he pulled off his mask, and the tremendous majesty of Colonel Bath appeared, from which the bucks fled away as fast as the Trojans heretofore from the face of Achilles. The colonel did not think it worth while to pursue any other of them except him who had the letter in his hand, which the colonel desired to see, and the other delivered, saying it was very much at his service.
The colonel being possessed of the letter, retired as privately as he could, in order to give it a careful perusal; for, badly as it had been read by the orator, there were some passages in it which had pleased the colonel. He had just gone through it when Booth passed by him; upon which the colonel called to him, and, delivering him the letter, bid him put it in his pocket and read it at his leisure. He made many encomiums upon it, and told Booth it would be of service to him, and was proper for all young men to read.
Booth had not yet seen his wife; but, as he concluded she was safe with Mrs. James, he was not uneasy. He had been prevented searching farther after her by the lady in the blue domino, who had joined him again. Booth had now made these discoveries: that the lady was pretty well acquainted with him, that she was a woman of fashion, and that she had a particular regard for him. But, though he was a gay man, he was in reality so fond of his Amelia, that he thought of no other woman; wherefore, though not absolutely a Joseph, as we have already seen, yet could he not be guilty of premeditated inconstancy. He was indeed so very cold and insensible to the hints which were given him, that the lady began to complain of his dullness. When the shepherdess again came up and heard this accusation against him, she confirmed it, saying, “I do assure you, madam, he is the dullest fellow in the world. Indeed, I should almost take you for his wife, by finding you a second time with him; for I do assure you the gentleman very seldom keeps any other company.” “Are you so well acquainted with him, madam?” said the domino. “I have had that honour longer than your ladyship, I believe,” answered the shepherdess. “Possibly you may, madam,” cries the domino; “but I wish you would not interrupt us at present, for we have some business together.” “I believe, madam,” answered the shepherdess, “my business with the gentleman is altogether as important as yours; and therefore your ladyship may withdraw if you please.” “My dear ladies,” cries Booth, “I beg you will not quarrel about me.” “Not at all,” answered the domino; “since you are so indifferent, I resign my pretensions with all my heart. If you had not been the dullest fellow upon earth, I am convinced you must have discovered me.” She then went off, muttering to herself that she was satisfied the shepherdess was some wretched creature whom nobody knew.
The shepherdess overheard the sarcasm, and answered it by asking Booth what contemptible wretch he had picked up? “Indeed, madam,” said he, “you know as much of her as I do; she is a masquerade acquaintance like yourself.” “Like me!” repeated she. “Do you think if this had been our first acquaintance I should have wasted so much time with you as I have? for your part, indeed, I believe a woman will get very little advantage by her having been formerly intimate with you.” “I do not know, madam,” said Booth, “that I deserve that character any more than I know the person that now gives it me.” “And you have the assurance then,” said she, in her own voice, “to affect not to remember me?” “I think,” cries Booth, “I have heard that voice before; but, upon my soul, I do not recollect it.” “Do you recollect,” said she, “no woman that you have used with the highest barbarity — I will not say ingratitude?” “No, upon my honour,” answered Booth. “Mention not honour,” said she, “thou wretch! for, hardened as thou art, I could shew thee a face that, in spite of thy consummate impudence, would confound thee with shame and horrour. Dost thou not yet know me?” “I do, madam, indeed,” answered Booth, “and I confess that of all women in the world you have the most reason for what you said.”
Here a long dialogue ensued between the gentleman and the lady, whom, I suppose, I need not mention to have been Miss Matthews; but, as it consisted chiefly of violent upbraidings on her side, and excuses on his, I despair of making it entertaining to the reader, and shall therefore return to the colonel, who, having searched all the rooms with the utmost diligence, without finding the woman he looked for, began to suspect that he had before fixed on the right person, and that Amelia had denied herself to him, being pleased with her paramour, whom he had discovered to be the noble peer.
He resolved, therefore, as he could have no sport himself, to spoil that of others; accordingly he found out Booth, and asked him again what was become of both their wives; for that he had searched all over the rooms, and could find neither of them.
Booth was now a little alarmed at this account, and, parting with Miss Matthews, went along with the colonel in search of his wife. As for Miss Matthews, he had at length pacified her with a promise to make her a visit; which promise she extorted from him, swearing bitterly, in the most solemn manner, unless he made it to her, she would expose both him and herself at the masquerade.
As he knew the violence of the lady’s passions, and to what heights they were capable of rising, he was obliged to come in to these terms: for he had, I am convinced, no fear upon earth equal to that of Amelia’s knowing what it was in the power of Miss Matthews to communicate to her, and which to conceal from her, he had already undergone so much uneasiness.
The colonel led Booth directly to the place where he had seen the peer and Amelia (such he was now well convinced she was) sitting together. Booth no sooner saw her than he said to the colonel, “Sure that is my wife in conversation with that masque?” “I took her for your lady myself,” said the colonel; “but I found I was mistaken. Hark ye, that is my Lord — — and I have seen that very lady with him all this night.”
This conversation past at a little distance, and out of the hearing of the supposed Amelia; when Booth, looking stedfastly at the lady, declared with an oath that he was positive the colonel was in the right. She then beckoned to him with her fan; upon which he went directly to her, and she asked him to go home, which he very readily consented to. The peer then walked off: the colonel went in pursuit of his wife, or of some other woman; and Booth and his lady returned in two chairs to their lodgings.
Consequences of the masquerade, not uncommon nor surprizing.
The lady, getting first out of her chair, ran hastily up into the nursery to the children; for such was Amelia’s constant method at her return home, at whatever hour. Booth then walked into the dining-room, where he had not been long before Amelia came down to him, and, with a most chearful countenance, said, “My dear, I fancy we have neither of us supped; shall I go down and see whether there is any cold meat in the house?”
“For yourself, if you please,” answered Booth; “but I shall eat nothing.”
“How, my dear!” said Amelia; “I hope you have not lost your appetite at the masquerade!” for supper was a meal at which he generally eat very heartily.
“I know not well what I have lost,” said Booth; “I find myself disordered. — My head aches. I know not what is the matter with me.”
“Indeed, my dear, you frighten me,” said Amelia; “you look, indeed, disordered. I wish the masquerade had been far enough before you had gone thither.”
“Would to Heaven it had!” cries Booth; “but that is over now. But pray, Amelia, answer me one question — Who was that gentleman with you when I came up to you?”
“The gentleman! my dear,” said Amelia; “what gentleman?”
“The gentleman — the nobleman — when I came up; sure I speak plain.”
“Upon my word, my dear, I don’t understand you,” answered she; “I did not know one person at the masquerade.”
“How!” said he; “what! spend the whole evening with a masque without knowing him?”
“Why, my dear,” said she, “you know we were not together.”
“I know we were not,” said he, “but what is that to the purpose? Sure you answer me strangely. I know we were not together; and therefore I ask you whom you were with?”
“Nay, but, my dear,” said she, “can I tell people in masques?”
“I say again, madam,” said he, “would you converse two hours or more with a masque whom you did not know?”
“Indeed, child,” says she, “I know nothing of the methods of a masquerade; for I never was at one in my life.”
“I wish to Heaven you had not been at this!” cries Booth. “Nay, you will wish so yourself if you tell me truth. — What have I said? do I— can I suspect you of not speaking truth? Since you are ignorant then I will inform you: the man you have conversed with was no other than Lord ——.”
“And is that the reason,” said she, “you wish I had not been there?”
“And is not that reason,” answered he, “sufficient? Is he not the last man upon earth with whom I would have you converse?”
“So you really wish then that I had not been at the masquerade?”
“I do,” cried he, “from my soul.”
“So may I ever be able,” cried she, “to indulge you in every wish as in this. — I was not there.”
“Do not trifle, Amelia,” cried he; “you would not jest with me if you knew the situation of my mind.”
“Indeed I do not jest with you,” said she. “Upon my honour I was not there. Forgive me this first deceit I ever practised, and indeed it shall be the last; for I have paid severely for this by the uneasiness it hath given me.” She then revealed to him the whole secret, which was thus:
I think it hath been already mentioned in some part of this history that Amelia and Mrs. Atkinson were exactly of the same make and stature, and that there was likewise a very near resemblance between their voices. When Mrs. Atkinson, therefore, found that Amelia was so extremely averse to the masquerade, she proposed to go thither in her stead, and to pass upon Booth for his own wife.
This was afterwards very easily executed; for, when they left Booth’s lodgings, Amelia, who went last to her chair, ran back to fetch her masque, as she pretended, which she had purposely left behind. She then whipt off her domino, and threw it over Mrs. Atkinson, who stood ready to receive it, and ran immediately downstairs, and, stepping into Amelia’s chair, proceeded with the rest to the masquerade.
As her stature exactly suited that of Amelia, she had very little difficulty to carry on the imposition; for, besides the natural resemblance of their voices, and the opportunity of speaking in a feigned one, she had scarce an intercourse of six words with Booth during the whole time; for the moment they got into the croud she took the first opportunity of slipping from him. And he, as the reader may remember, being seized by other women, and concluding his wife to be safe with Mrs. James, was very well satisfied, till the colonel set him upon the search, as we have seen before.
Mrs. Atkinson, the moment she came home, ran upstairs to the nursery, where she found Amelia, and told her in haste that she might very easily carry on the deceit with her husband; for that she might tell him what she pleased to invent, as they had not been a minute together during the whole evening.
Booth was no sooner satisfied that his wife had not been from home that evening than he fell into raptures with her, gave her a thousand tender caresses, blamed his own judgment, acknowledged the goodness of hers, and vowed never to oppose her will more in any one instance during his life.
Mrs. Atkinson, who was still in the nursery with her masquerade dress, was then summoned down-stairs, and, when Booth saw her and heard her speak in her mimic tone, he declared he was not surprized at his having been imposed upon, for that, if they were both in the same disguise, he should scarce be able to discover the difference between them.
They then sat down to half an hour’s chearful conversation, after which they retired all in the most perfect good humour.
Consequences of the masquerade.
When Booth rose in the morning he found in his pocket that letter which had been delivered to him by Colonel Bath, which, had not chance brought to his remembrance, he might possibly have never recollected.
He had now, however, the curiosity to open the letter, and beginning to read it, the matter of it drew him on till he perused the whole; for, notwithstanding the contempt cast upon it by those learned critics the bucks, neither the subject nor the manner in which it was treated was altogether contemptible.
But there was still another motive which induced Booth to read the whole letter, and this was, that he presently thought he knew the hand. He did, indeed, immediately conclude it was Dr Harrison; for the doctor wrote a very remarkable one, and this letter contained all the particularities of the doctor’s character.
He had just finished a second reading of this letter when the doctor himself entered the room. The good man was impatient to know the success of Amelia’s stratagem, for he bore towards her all that love which esteem can create in a good mind, without the assistance of those selfish considerations from which the love of wives and children may be ordinarily deduced. The latter of which, Nature, by very subtle and refined reasoning, suggests to us to be part of our dear selves; and the former, as long as they remain the objects of our liking, that same Nature is furnished with very plain and fertile arguments to recommend to our affections. But to raise that affection in the human breast which the doctor had for Amelia, Nature is forced to use a kind of logic which is no more understood by a bad man than Sir Isaac Newton’s doctrine of colours is by one born blind. And yet in reality it contains nothing more abstruse than this, that an injury is the object of anger, danger of fear, and praise of vanity; for in the same simple manner it may be asserted that goodness is the object of love.
The doctor enquired immediately for his child (for so he often called Amelia); Booth answered that he had left her asleep, for that she had had but a restless night. “I hope she is not disordered by the masquerade,” cries the doctor. Booth answered he believed she would be very well when she waked. “I fancy,” said he, “her gentle spirits were a little too much fluttered last night; that is all.”
“I hope, then,” said the doctor, “you will never more insist on her going to such places, but know your own happiness in having a wife that hath the discretion to avoid those places; which, though perhaps they may not be as some represent them, such brothels of vice and debauchery as would impeach the character of every virtuous woman who was seen at them, are certainly, however, scenes of riot, disorder, and intemperance, very improper to be frequented by a chaste and sober Christian matron.”
Booth declared that he was very sensible of his error, and that, so far from soliciting his wife to go to another masquerade, he did not intend ever to go thither any more himself.
The doctor highly approved the resolution; and then Booth said, “And I thank you, my dear friend, as well as my wife’s discretion, that she was not at the masquerade last night.” He then related to the doctor the discovery of the plot; and the good man was greatly pleased with the success of the stratagem, and that Booth took it in such good part.
“But, sir,” says Booth, “I had a letter given me by a noble colonel there, which is written in a hand so very like yours, that I could almost swear to it. Nor is the stile, as far as I can guess, unlike your own. Here it is, sir. Do you own the letter, doctor, or do you not?”
The doctor took the letter, and, having looked at it a moment, said, “And did the colonel himself give you this letter?”
“The colonel himself,” answered Booth.
“Why then,” cries the doctor, “he is surely the most impudent fellow that the world ever produced. What! did he deliver it with an air of triumph?”
“He delivered it me with air enough,” cries Booth, “after his own manner, and bid me read it for my edification. To say the truth, I am a little surprized that he should single me out of all mankind to deliver the letter to; I do not think I deserve the character of such a husband. It is well I am not so very forward to take an affront as some folks.”
“I am glad to see you are not,” said the doctor; “and your behaviour in this affair becomes both the man of sense and the Christian; for it would be surely the greatest folly, as well as the most daring impiety, to risque your own life for the impertinence of a fool. As long as you are assured of the virtue of your own wife, it is wisdom in you to despise the efforts of such a wretch. Not, indeed, that your wife accuses him of any downright attack, though she hath observed enough in his behaviour to give offence to her delicacy.”
“You astonish me, doctor,” said Booth. “What can you mean? my wife dislike his behaviour! hath the colonel ever offended her?”
“I do not say he hath ever offended her by any open declarations; nor hath he done anything which, according to the most romantic notion of honour, you can or ought to resent; but there is something extremely nice in the chastity of a truly virtuous woman.”
“And hath my wife really complained of anything of that kind in the colonel?”
“Look ye, young gentleman,” cries the doctor; “I will have no quarrelling or challenging; I find I have made some mistake, and therefore I insist upon it by all the rights of friendship, that you give me your word of honour you will not quarrel with the colonel on this account.”
“I do, with all my heart,” said Booth; “for, if I did not know your character, I should absolutely think you was jesting with me. I do not think you have mistaken my wife, but I am sure she hath mistaken the colonel, and hath misconstrued some over-strained point of gallantry, something of the Quixote kind, into a design against her chastity; but I have that opinion of the colonel, that I hope you will not be offended when I declare I know not which of you two I should be the sooner jealous of.”
“I would by no means have you jealous of any one,” cries the doctor; “for I think my child’s virtue may be firmly relied on; but I am convinced she would not have said what she did to me without a cause; nor should I, without such a conviction, have written that letter to the colonel, as I own to you I did. However, nothing I say hath yet past which, even in the opinion of false honour, you are at liberty to resent! but as to declining any great intimacy, if you will take my advice, I think that would be prudent.”
“You will pardon me, my dearest friend,” said Booth, “but I have really such an opinion of the colonel that I would pawn my life upon his honour; and as for women, I do not believe he ever had an attachment to any.”
“Be it so,” said the doctor: “I have only two things to insist on. The first is, that, if ever you change your opinion, this letter may not be the subject of any quarrelling or fighting: the other is, that you never mention a word of this to your wife. By the latter I shall see whether you can keep a secret; and, if it is no otherwise material, it will be a wholesome exercise to your mind; for the practice of any virtue is a kind of mental exercise, and serves to maintain the health and vigour of the soul.”
“I faithfully promise both,” cries Booth. And now the breakfast entered the room, as did soon after Amelia and Mrs. Atkinson.
The conversation ran chiefly on the masquerade; and Mrs. Atkinson gave an account of several adventures there; but whether she told the whole truth with regard to herself I will not determine, for, certain it is, she never once mentioned the name of the noble peer. Amongst the rest, she said there was a young fellow that had preached a sermon there upon a stool, in praise of adultery, she believed; for she could not get near enough to hear the particulars.
During that transaction Booth had been engaged with the blue domino in another room, so that he knew nothing of it; so that what Mrs. Atkinson had now said only brought to his mind the doctor’s letter to Colonel Bath, for to him he supposed it was written; and the idea of the colonel being a lover to Amelia struck him in so ridiculous a light, that it threw him into a violent fit of laughter.
The doctor, who, from the natural jealousy of an author, imputed the agitation of Booth’s muscles to his own sermon or letter on that subject, was a little offended, and said gravely, “I should be glad to know the reason of this immoderate mirth. Is adultery a matter of jest in your opinion?”
“Far otherwise,” answered Booth. “But how is it possible to refrain from laughter at the idea of a fellow preaching a sermon in favour of it at such a place?”
“I am very sorry,” cries the doctor, “to find the age is grown to so scandalous a degree of licentiousness, that we have thrown off not only virtue, but decency. How abandoned must be the manners of any nation where such insults upon religion and morality can be committed with impunity! No man is fonder of true wit and humour than myself; but to profane sacred things with jest and scoffing is a sure sign of a weak and a wicked mind. It is the very vice which Homer attacks in the odious character of Thersites. The ladies must excuse my repeating the passage to you, as I know you have Greek enough to understand it:—
Os rh’ epea phresin esin akosma te, polla te ede
Maps, atar ou kata kosmon epizemenai basileusin,
All’o, ti oi eisaito geloiton Argeiosin
And immediately adds,
—— aiskistos de aner ypo Ilion elthe15
“Horace, again, describes such a rascal:
Qui captat risus hominum famamque dicacis,16
and says of him,
Hic niger est, hunc tu, Romane, caveto.”17
“O charming Homer!” said Mrs. Atkinson, “how much above all other writers!”
“I ask your pardon, madam,” said the doctor; “I forgot you was a scholar; but, indeed, I did not know you understood Greek as well as Latin.”
“I do not pretend,” said she, “to be a critic in the Greek; but I think I am able to read a little of Homer, at least with the help of looking now and then into the Latin.”
“Pray, madam,” said the doctor, “how do you like this passage in the speech of Hector to Andromache:
—— Eis oikon iousa ta sautes erga komize,
Iston t elakaten te, kai amphipoloisi keleue
Ergon epoichesthai? 18
“Or how do you like the character of Hippodamia, who, by being the prettiest girl and best workwoman of her age, got one of the best husbands in all Troy? — I think, indeed, Homer enumerates her discretion with her other qualifications; but I do not remember he gives us one character of a woman of learning. — Don’t you conceive this to be a great omission in that who, by being the prettiest girl and best workwoman of her age, got one of the best husbands in all Troy? —— I think, indeed, Homer enumerates her discretion with her other qualifications; but I do not remember Don’t you conceive this to be a great omission in that charming poet? However, Juvenal makes you amends, for he talks very abundantly of the learning of the Roman ladies in his time.”
“You are a provoking man, doctor,” said Mrs. Atkinson; “where is the harm in a woman’s having learning as well as a man?”
“Let me ask you another question,” said the doctor. “Where is the harm in a man’s being a fine performer with a needle as well as a woman? And yet, answer me honestly; would you greatly chuse to marry a man with a thimble upon his finger? Would you in earnest think a needle became the hand of your husband as well as a halberd?”
“As to war, I am with you,” said she. “Homer himself, I well remember, makes Hector tell his wife that warlike works — what is the Greek word — Pollemy — something — belonged to men only; and I readily agree to it. I hate a masculine woman, an Amazon, as much as you can do; but what is there masculine in learning?”
“Nothing so masculine, take my word for it. As for your Pollemy, I look upon it to be the true characteristic of a devil. So Homer everywhere characterizes Mars.”
“Indeed, my dear,” cries the serjeant, “you had better not dispute with the doctor; for, upon my word, he will be too hard for you.”
“Nay, I beg you will not interfere,” cries Mrs. Atkinson; “I am sure you can be no judge in these matters.”
At which the doctor and Booth burst into a loud laugh; and Amelia, though fearful of giving her friend offence, could not forbear a gentle smile.
“You may laugh, gentlemen, if you please,” said Mrs. Atkinson; “but I thank Heaven I have married a man who is not jealous of my understanding. I should have been the most miserable woman upon earth with a starched pedant who was possessed of that nonsensical opinion that the difference of sexes causes any difference in the mind. Why don’t you honestly avow the Turkish notion that women have no souls? for you say the same thing in effect.”
“Indeed, my dear,” cries the serjeant, greatly concerned to see his wife so angry, “you have mistaken the doctor.”
“I beg, my dear,” cried she, “you will say nothing upon these subjects — I hope you at least do not despise my understanding.”
“I assure you, I do not,” said the serjeant; “and I hope you will never despise mine; for a man may have some understanding, I hope, without learning.”
Mrs. Atkinson reddened extremely at these words; and the doctor, fearing he had gone too far, began to soften matters, in which Amelia assisted him. By these means, the storm rising in Mrs. Atkinson before was in some measure laid, at least suspended from bursting at present; but it fell afterwards upon the poor serjeant’s head in a torrent, who had learned perhaps one maxim from his trade, that a cannon-ball always doth mischief in proportion to the resistance it meets with, and that nothing so effectually deadens its force as a woolpack. The serjeant therefore bore all with patience; and the idea of a woolpack, perhaps, bringing that of a feather-bed into his head, he at last not only quieted his wife, but she cried out with great sincerity, “Well, my dear, I will say one thing for you, that I believe from my soul, though you have no learning, you have the best understanding of any man upon earth; and I must own I think the latter far the more profitable of the two.”
Far different was the idea she entertained of the doctor, whom, from this day, she considered as a conceited pedant; nor could all Amelia’s endeavours ever alter her sentiments.
The doctor now took his leave of Booth and his wife for a week, he intending to set out within an hour or two with his old friend, with whom our readers were a little acquainted at the latter end of the ninth book, and of whom, perhaps, they did not then conceive the most favourable opinion.
Nay, I am aware that the esteem which some readers before had for the doctor may be here lessened; since he may appear to have been too easy a dupe to the gross flattery of the old gentleman. If there be any such critics, we are heartily sorry, as well for them as for the doctor; but it is our business to discharge the part of a faithful historian, and to describe human nature as it is, not as we would wish it to be.
14 Thus paraphrased by Mr. Pope:
“Awed by no shame, by no respect controll’d,
In scandal busy, in reproaches bold,
With witty malice, studious to defame,
Scorn all his joy, and laughter all his aim.”
15 “He was the greatest scoundrel in the whole army.”
16 “Who trivial bursts of laughter strives to raise,
And courts of prating petulance the praise.” — FRANCIS.
17 “This man is black; do thou, O Roman! shun this man.”
18 “Go home and mind your own business. Follow your spinning, and keep your maids to their work.”
In which Colonel Bath appears in great glory.
That afternoon, as Booth was walking in the Park, he met with Colonel Bath, who presently asked him for the letter which he had given him the night before; upon which Booth immediately returned it.
“Don’t you think,” cries Bath, “it is writ with great dignity of expression and emphasis of — of — of judgment?”
“I am surprized, though,” cries Booth, “that any one should write such a letter to you, colonel.”
“To me!” said Bath. “What do you mean, sir? I hope you don’t imagine any man durst write such a letter to me? d — n me, if I knew a man who thought me capable of debauching my friend’s wife, I would — d — n me.”
“I believe, indeed, sir,” cries Booth, “that no man living dares put his name to such a letter; but you see it is anonymous.”
“I don’t know what you mean by ominous,” cries the colonel; “but, blast my reputation, if I had received such a letter, if I would not have searched the world to have found the writer. D— n me, I would have gone to the East Indies to have pulled off his nose.”
“He would, indeed, have deserved it,” cries Booth. “But pray, sir, how came you by it?”
“I took it,” said the colonel, “from a sett of idle young rascals, one of whom was reading it out aloud upon a stool, while the rest were attempting to make a jest, not only of the letter, but of all decency, virtue, and religion. A sett of fellows that you must have seen or heard of about the town, that are, d — n me, a disgrace to the dignity of manhood; puppies that mistake noise and impudence, rudeness and profaneness, for wit. If the drummers of my company had not more understanding than twenty such fellows, I’d have them both whipt out of the regiment.”
“So, then, you do not know the person to whom it was writ?” said Booth.
“Lieutenant,” cries the colonel, “your question deserves no answer. I ought to take time to consider whether I ought not to resent the supposition. Do you think, sir, I am acquainted with a rascal?”
“I do not suppose, colonel,” cries Booth, “that you would willingly cultivate an intimacy with such a person; but a man must have good luck who hath any acquaintance if there are not some rascals among them.”
“I am not offended with you, child,” says the colonel. “I know you did not intend to offend me.”
“No man, I believe, dares intend it,” said Booth.
“I believe so too,” said the colonel; “d — n me, I know it. But you know, child, how tender I am on this subject. If I had been ever married myself, I should have cleft the man’s skull who had dared look wantonly at my wife.”
“It is certainly the most cruel of all injuries,” said Booth. “How finely doth Shakespeare express it in his Othello!
‘But there, where I had treasured up my soul.’”
“That Shakespeare,” cries the colonel, “was a fine fellow. He was a very pretty poet indeed. Was it not Shakespeare that wrote the play about Hotspur? You must remember these lines. I got them almost by heart at the playhouse; for I never missed that play whenever it was acted, if I was in town:—
By Heav’n it was an easy leap,
To pluck bright honour into the full moon,
Or drive into the bottomless deep.
And — and — faith, I have almost forgot them; but I know it is something about saving your honour from drowning — O! it is very fine! I say, d — n me, the man that writ those lines was the greatest poet the world ever produced. There is dignity of expression and emphasis of thinking, d — n me.”
Booth assented to the colonel’s criticism, and then cried, “I wish, colonel, you would be so kind to give me that letter.” The colonel answered, if he had any particular use for it he would give it him with all his heart, and presently delivered it; and soon afterwards they parted.
Several passages now struck all at once upon Booth’s mind, which gave him great uneasiness. He became confident now that he had mistaken one colonel for another; and, though he could not account for the letter’s getting into those hands from whom Bath had taken it (indeed James had dropt it out of his pocket), yet a thousand circumstances left him no room to doubt the identity of the person, who was a man much more liable to raise the suspicion of a husband than honest Bath, who would at any time have rather fought with a man than lain with a woman.
The whole behaviour of Amelia now rushed upon his memory. Her resolution not to take up her residence at the colonel’s house, her backwardness even to dine there, her unwillingness to go to the masquerade, many of her unguarded expressions, and some where she had been more guarded, all joined together to raise such an idea in Mr. Booth, that he had almost taken a resolution to go and cut the colonel to pieces in his own house. Cooler thoughts, however, suggested themselves to him in time. He recollected the promise he had so solemnly made to the doctor. He considered, moreover, that he was yet in the dark as to the extent of the colonel’s guilt. Having nothing, therefore, to fear from it, he contented himself to postpone a resentment which he nevertheless resolved to take of the colonel hereafter, if he found he was in any degree a delinquent.
The first step he determined to take was, on the first opportunity, to relate to Colonel James the means by which he became possessed of the letter, and to read it to him; on which occasion, he thought he should easily discern by the behaviour of the colonel whether he had been suspected either by Amelia or the doctor without a cause; but as for his wife, he fully resolved not to reveal the secret to her till the doctor’s return.
While Booth was deeply engaged by himself in these meditations, Captain Trent came up to him, and familiarly slapped him on the shoulder.
They were soon joined by a third gentleman, and presently afterwards by a fourth, both acquaintances of Mr. Trent; and all having walked twice the length of the Mall together, it being now past nine in the evening, Trent proposed going to the tavern, to which the strangers immediately consented; and Booth himself, after some resistance, was at length persuaded to comply.
To the King’s Arms then they went, where the bottle went very briskly round till after eleven; at which time Trent proposed a game at cards, to which proposal likewise Booth’s consent was obtained, though not without much difficulty; for, though he had naturally some inclination to gaming, and had formerly a little indulged it, yet he had entirely left it off for many years.
Booth and his friend were partners, and had at first some success; but Fortune, according to her usual conduct, soon shifted about, and persecuted Booth with such malice, that in about two hours he was stripped of all the gold in his pocket, which amounted to twelve guineas, being more than half the cash which he was at that time worth.
How easy it is for a man who is at all tainted with the itch of gaming to leave off play in such a situation, especially when he is likewise heated with liquor, I leave to the gamester to determine. Certain it is that Booth had no inclination to desist; but, on the contrary, was so eagerly bent on playing on, that he called his friend out of the room, and asked him for ten pieces, which he promised punctually to pay the next morning.
Trent chid him for using so much formality on the occasion. “You know,” said he, “dear Booth, you may have what money you please of me. Here is a twenty-pound note at your service; and, if you want five times the sum, it is at your service. We will never let these fellows go away with our money in this manner; for we have so much the advantage, that if the knowing ones were here they would lay odds of our side.”
But if this was really Mr. rent’s opinion, he was very much mistaken; for the other two honourable gentlemen were not only greater masters of the game, and somewhat soberer than poor Booth, having, with all the art in their power, evaded the bottle, but they had, moreover, another small advantage over their adversaries, both of them, by means of some certain private signs, previously agreed upon between them, being always acquainted with the principal cards in each other’s hands. It cannot be wondered, therefore, that Fortune was on their side; for, however she may be reported to favour fools, she never, I believe, shews them any countenance when they engage in play with knaves.
The more Booth lost, the deeper he made his bets; the consequence of which was, that about two in the morning, besides the loss of his own money, he was fifty pounds indebted to Trent: a sum, indeed, which he would not have borrowed, had not the other, like a very generous friend, pushed it upon him.
Trent’s pockets became at last dry by means of these loans. His own loss, indeed, was trifling; for the stakes of the games were no higher than crowns, and betting (as it is called) was that to which Booth owed his ruin. The gentlemen, therefore, pretty well knowing Booth’s circumstances, and being kindly unwilling to win more of a man than he was worth, declined playing any longer, nor did Booth once ask them to persist, for he was ashamed of the debt which he had already contracted to Trent, and very far from desiring to encrease it.
The company then separated. The two victors and Trent went off in their chairs to their several houses near Grosvenor-square, and poor Booth, in a melancholy mood, walked home to his lodgings. He was, indeed, in such a fit of despair, that it more than once came into his head to put an end to his miserable being.
But before we introduce him to Amelia we must do her the justice to relate the manner in which she spent this unhappy evening. It was about seven when Booth left her to walk in the park; from this time till past eight she was employed with her children, in playing with them, in giving them their supper, and in putting them to bed.
When these offices were performed she employed herself another hour in cooking up a little supper for her husband, this being, as we have already observed, his favourite meal, as indeed it was her’s; and, in a most pleasant and delightful manner, they generally passed their time at this season, though their fare was very seldom of the sumptuous kind.
It now grew dark, and her hashed mutton was ready for the table, but no Booth appeared. Having waited therefore for him a full hour, she gave him over for that evening; nor was she much alarmed at his absence, as she knew he was in a night or two to be at the tavern with some brother-officers; she concluded therefore that they had met in the park, and had agreed to spend this evening together.
At ten then she sat down to supper by herself, for Mrs. Atkinson was then abroad. And here we cannot help relating a little incident, however trivial it may appear to some. Having sat some time alone, reflecting on their distressed situation, her spirits grew very low; and she was once or twice going to ring the bell to send her maid for half-a-pint of white wine, but checked her inclination in order to save the little sum of sixpence, which she did the more resolutely as she had before refused to gratify her children with tarts for their supper from the same motive. And this self-denial she was very probably practising to save sixpence, while her husband was paying a debt of several guineas incurred by the ace of trumps being in the hands of his adversary.
Instead therefore of this cordial she took up one of the excellent Farquhar’s comedies, and read it half through; when, the clock striking twelve, she retired to bed, leaving the maid to sit up for her master. She would, indeed, have much more willingly sat up herself, but the delicacy of her own mind assured her that Booth would not thank her for the compliment. This is, indeed, a method which some wives take of upbraiding their husbands for staying abroad till too late an hour, and of engaging them, through tenderness and good nature, never to enjoy the company of their friends too long when they must do this at the expence of their wives’ rest.
To bed then she went, but not to sleep. Thrice indeed she told the dismal clock, and as often heard the more dismal watchman, till her miserable husband found his way home, and stole silently like a thief to bed to her; at which time, pretending then first to awake, she threw her snowy arms around him; though, perhaps, the more witty property of snow, according to Addison, that is to say its coldness, rather belonged to the poor captain.
Read, gamester, and observe.
Booth could not so well disguise the agitations of his mind from Amelia, but that she perceived sufficient symptoms to assure her that some misfortune had befallen him. This made her in her turn so uneasy that Booth took notice of it, and after breakfast said, “Sure, my dear Emily, something hath fallen out to vex you.”
Amelia, looking tenderly at him, answered, “Indeed, my dear, you are in the right; I am indeed extremely vexed.” “For Heaven’s sake,” said he, “what is it?” “Nay, my love,” cried she, “that you must answer yourself. Whatever it is which hath given you all that disturbance that you in vain endeavour to conceal from me, this it is which causes all my affliction.”
“You guess truly, my sweet,” replied Booth; “I am indeed afflicted, and I will not, nay I cannot, conceal the truth from you. I have undone myself, Amelia.”
“What have you done, child?” said she, in some consternation; “pray, tell me.”
“I have lost my money at play,” answered he.
“Pugh!” said she, recovering herself — “what signifies the trifle you had in your pocket? Resolve never to play again, and let it give you no further vexation; I warrant you, we will contrive some method to repair such a loss.”
“Thou heavenly angel! thou comfort of my soul!” cried Booth, tenderly embracing her; then starting a little from her arms, and looking with eager fondness in her eyes, he said, “Let me survey thee; art thou really human, or art thou not rather an angel in a human form? O, no,” cried he, flying again into her arms, “thou art my dearest woman, my best, my beloved wife!”
Amelia, having returned all his caresses with equal kindness, told him she had near eleven guineas in her purse, and asked how much she should fetch him. “I would not advise you, Billy, to carry too much in your pocket, for fear it should be a temptation to you to return to gaming, in order to retrieve your past losses. Let me beg you, on all accounts, never to think more, if possible, on the trifle you have lost, anymore than if you had never possessed it.”
Booth promised her faithfully he never would, and refused to take any of the money. He then hesitated a moment, and cried — “You say, my dear, you have eleven guineas; you have a diamond ring, likewise, which was your grandmother’s — I believe that is worth twenty pounds; and your own and the child’s watch are worth as much more.”
“I believe they would sell for as much,” cried Amelia; “for a pawnbroker of Mrs. Atkinson’s acquaintance offered to lend me thirty-five pounds upon them when you was in your last distress. But why are you computing their value now?”
“I was only considering,” answered he, “how much we could raise in any case of exigency.”
“I have computed it myself,” said she; “and I believe all we have in the world, besides our bare necessary apparel, would produce about sixty pounds: and suppose, my dear,” said she, “while we have that little sum, we should think of employing it some way or other, to procure some small subsistence for ourselves and our family. As for your dependence on the colonel’s friendship, it is all vain, I am afraid, and fallacious. Nor do I see any hopes you have from any other quarter, of providing for yourself again in the army. And though the sum which is now in our power is very small, yet we may possibly contrive with it to put ourselves into some mean way of livelihood. I have a heart, my Billy, which is capable of undergoing anything for your sake; and I hope my hands are as able to work as those which have been more inured to it. But think, my dear, think what must be our wretched condition, when the very little we now have is all mouldered away, as it will soon be in this town.”
When poor Booth heard this, and reflected that the time which Amelia foresaw was already arrived (for that he had already lost every farthing they were worth), it touched him to the quick; he turned pale, gnashed his teeth, and cried out, “Damnation! this is too much to bear.”
Amelia was thrown into the utmost consternation by this behaviour; and, with great terror in her countenance, cried out, “Good Heavens! my dear love, what is the reason of this agony?”
“Ask me no questions,” cried he, “unless you would drive me to madness.”
“My Billy! my love!” said she, “what can be the meaning of this? — I beg you will deal openly with me, and tell me all your griefs.”
“Have you dealt fairly with me, Amelia?” said he.
“Yes, surely,” said she; “Heaven is my witness how fairly.”
“Nay, do not call Heaven,” cried he, “to witness a falsehood. You have not dealt openly with me, Amelia. You have concealed secrets from me; secrets which I ought to have known, and which, if I had known, it had been better for us both.”
“You astonish me as much as you shock me,” cried she. “What falsehood, what treachery have I been guilty of?”
“You tell me,” said he, “that I can have no reliance on James; why did not you tell me so before?”
“I call Heaven again,” said she, “to witness; nay, I appeal to yourself for the truth of it; I have often told you so. I have told you I disliked the man, notwithstanding the many favours he had done you. I desired you not to have too absolute a reliance upon him. I own I had once an extreme good opinion of him, but I changed it, and I acquainted you that I had so — ”
“But not,” cries he, “with the reasons why you had changed it.”
“I was really afraid, my dear,” said she, “of going too far. I knew the obligations you had to him; and if I suspected that he acted rather from vanity than true friendship — ”
“Vanity!” cries he; “take care, Amelia: you know his motive to be much worse than vanity — a motive which, if he had piled obligations on me till they had reached the skies, would tumble all down to hell. It is vain to conceal it longer — I know all — your confidant hath told me all.”
“Nay, then,” cries she, “on my knees I entreat you to be pacified, and hear me out. It was, my dear, for you, my dread of your jealous honour, and the fatal consequences.”
“Is not Amelia, then,” cried he, “equally jealous of my honour? Would she, from a weak tenderness for my person, go privately about to betray, to undermine the most invaluable treasure of my soul? Would she have me pointed at as the credulous dupe, the easy fool, the tame, the kind cuckold, of a rascal with whom I conversed as a friend?”
“Indeed you injure me,” said Amelia. “Heaven forbid I should have the trial! but I think I could sacrifice all I hold most dear to preserve your honour. I think I have shewn I can. But I will — when you are cool, I will — satisfy you I have done nothing you ought to blame.”
“I am cool then,” cries he; “I will with the greatest coolness hear you. — But do not think, Amelia, I have the least jealousy, the least suspicion, the least doubt of your honour. It is your want of confidence in me alone which I blame.”
“When you are calm,” cried she, “I will speak, and not before.”
He assured her he was calm; and then she said, “You have justified my conduct by your present passion, in concealing from you my suspicions; for they were no more, nay, it is possible they were unjust; for since the doctor, in betraying the secret to you, hath so far falsified my opinion of him, why may I not be as well deceived in my opinion of the colonel, since it was only formed on some particulars in his behaviour which I disliked? for, upon my honour, he never spoke a word to me, nor hath been ever guilty of any direct action, which I could blame.” She then went on, and related most of the circumstances which she had mentioned to the doctor, omitting one or two of the strongest, and giving such a turn to the rest, that, if Booth had not had some of Othello’s blood in him, his wife would have almost appeared a prude in his eyes. Even he, however, was pretty well pacified by this narrative, and said he was glad to find a possibility of the colonel’s innocence; but that he greatly commended the prudence of his wife, and only wished she would for the future make him her only confidant.
Amelia, upon that, expressed some bitterness against the doctor for breaking his trust; when Booth, in his excuse, related all the circumstances of the letter, and plainly convinced her that the secret had dropt by mere accident from the mouth of the doctor.
Thus the husband and wife became again reconciled, and poor Amelia generously forgave a passion of which the sagacious reader is better acquainted with the real cause than was that unhappy lady.
In which Booth receives a visit from Captain Trent.
When Booth grew perfectly cool, and began to reflect that he had broken his word to the doctor, in having made the discovery to his wife which we have seen in the last chapter, that thought gave him great uneasiness; and now, to comfort him, Captain Trent came to make him a visit.
This was, indeed, almost the last man in the world whose company he wished for; for he was the only man he was ashamed to see, for a reason well known to gamesters; among whom, the most dishonourable of all things is not to pay a debt, contracted at the gaming-table, the next day, or the next time at least that you see the party.
Booth made no doubt but that Trent was come on purpose to receive this debt; the latter had been therefore scarce a minute in the room before Booth began, in an aukward manner, to apologise; but Trent immediately stopt his mouth, and said, “I do not want the money, Mr. Booth, and you may pay it me whenever you are able; and, if you are never able, I assure you I will never ask you for it.”
This generosity raised such a tempest of gratitude in Booth (if I may be allowed the expression), that the tears burst from his eyes, and it was some time before he could find any utterance for those sentiments with which his mind overflowed; but, when he began to express his thankfulness, Trent immediately stopt him, and gave a sudden turn to their discourse.
Mrs. Trent had been to visit Mrs. Booth on the masquerade evening, which visit Mrs. Booth had not yet returned. Indeed, this was only the second day since she had received it. Trent therefore now told his friend that he should take it extremely kind if he and his lady would waive all ceremony, and sup at their house the next evening. Booth hesitated a moment, but presently said, “I am pretty certain my wife is not engaged, and I will undertake for her. I am sure she will not refuse anything Mr. Trent can ask.” And soon after Trent took Booth with him to walk in the Park.
There were few greater lovers of a bottle than Trent; he soon proposed therefore to adjourn to the King’s Arms tavern, where Booth, though much against his inclination, accompanied him. But Trent was very importunate, and Booth did not think himself at liberty to refuse such a request to a man from whom he had so lately received such obligations.
When they came to the tavern, however, Booth recollected the omission he had been guilty of the night before. He wrote a short note therefore to his wife, acquainting her that he should not come home to supper; but comforted her with a faithful promise that he would on no account engage himself in gaming.
The first bottle passed in ordinary conversation; but, when they had tapped the second, Booth, on some hints which Trent gave him, very fairly laid open to him his whole circumstances, and declared he almost despaired of mending them. “My chief relief,” said he, “was in the interest of Colonel James; but I have given up those hopes.”
“And very wisely too,” said Trent “I say nothing of the colonel’s good will. Very likely he may be your sincere friend; but I do not believe he hath the interest he pretends to. He hath had too many favours in his own family to ask any more yet a while. But I am mistaken if you have not a much more powerful friend than the colonel; one who is both able and willing to serve you. I dined at his table within these two days, and I never heard kinder nor warmer expressions from the mouth of man than he made use of towards you. I make no doubt you know whom I mean.”
“Upon my honour I do not,” answered Booth; “nor did I guess that I had such a friend in the world as you mention.”
“I am glad then,” cries Trent, “that I have the pleasure of informing you of it.” He then named the noble peer who hath been already so often mentioned in this history.
Booth turned pale and started at his name. “I forgive you, my dear Trent,” cries Booth, “for mentioning his name to me, as you are a stranger to what hath passed between us.”
“Nay, I know nothing that hath passed between you,” answered Trent. “I am sure, if there is any quarrel between you of two days’ standing, all is forgiven on his part.”
“D— n his forgiveness!” said Booth. “Perhaps I ought to blush at what I have forgiven.”
“You surprize me!” cries Trent. “Pray what can be the matter?”
“Indeed, my dear Trent,” cries Booth, very gravely, “he would have injured me in the tenderest part. I know not how to tell it you; but he would have dishonoured me with my wife.”
“Sure, you are not in earnest!” answered Trent; “but, if you are, you will pardon me for thinking that impossible.”
“Indeed,” cries Booth, “I have so good an opinion of my wife as to believe it impossible for him to succeed; but that he should intend me the favour you will not, I believe, think an impossibility.”
“Faith! not in the least,” said Trent. “Mrs. Booth is a very fine woman; and, if I had the honour to be her husband, I should not be angry with any man for liking her.”
“But you would be angry,” said Booth, “with a man, who should make use of stratagems and contrivances to seduce her virtue; especially if he did this under the colour of entertaining the highest friendship for yourself.”
“Not at all,” cries Trent. “It is human nature.”
“Perhaps it is,” cries Booth; “but it is human nature depraved, stript of all its worth, and loveliness, and dignity, and degraded down to a level with the vilest brutes.”
“Look ye, Booth,” cries Trent, “I would not be misunderstood. I think, when I am talking to you, I talk to a man of sense and to an inhabitant of this country, not to one who dwells in a land of saints. If you have really such an opinion as you express of this noble lord, you have the finest opportunity of making a complete fool and bubble of him that any man can desire, and of making your own fortune at the same time. I do not say that your suspicions are groundless; for, of all men upon earth I know, my lord is the greatest bubble to women, though I believe he hath had very few. And this I am confident of, that he hath not the least jealousy of these suspicions. Now, therefore, if you will act the part of a wise man, I will undertake that you shall make your fortune without the least injury to the chastity of Mrs. Booth.”
“I do not understand you, sir,” said Booth.
“Nay,” cries Trent, “if you will not understand me, I have done. I meant only your service; and I thought I had known you better.”
Booth begged him to explain himself. “If you can,” said he, “shew me any way to improve such circumstances as I have opened to you, you may depend on it I shall readily embrace it, and own my obligations to you.”
“That is spoken like a man,” cries Trent. “Why, what is it more than this? Carry your suspicions in your own bosom. Let Mrs. Booth, in whose virtue I am sure you may be justly confident, go to the public places; there let her treat my lord with common civility only; I am sure he will bite. And thus, without suffering him to gain his purpose, you will gain yours. I know several who have succeeded with him in this manner.”
“I am very sorry, sir,” cries Booth, “that you are acquainted with any such rascals. I do assure you, rather than I would act such a part, I would submit to the hardest sentence that fortune could pronounce against me.”
“Do as you please, sir,” said Trent; “I have only ventured to advise you as a friend. But do you not think your nicety is a little over-scrupulous?”
“You will excuse me, sir,” said Booth; “but I think no man can be too scrupulous in points which concern his honour.”
“I know many men of very nice honour,” answered Trent, “who have gone much farther; and no man, I am sure, had ever a better excuse for it than yourself. You will forgive me, Booth, since what I speak proceeds from my love to you; nay, indeed, by mentioning your affairs to me, which I am heartily sorry for, you have given me a right to speak. You know best what friends you have to depend upon; but, if you have no other pretensions than your merit, I can assure you you would fail, if it was possible you could have ten times more merit than you have. And, if you love your wife, as I am convinced you do, what must be your condition in seeing her want the necessaries of life?”
“I know my condition is very hard,” cries Booth; “but I have one comfort in it, which I will never part with, and that is innocence. As to the mere necessaries of life, however, it is pretty difficult to deprive us of them; this I am sure of, no one can want them long.”
“Upon my word, sir,” cries Trent, “I did not know you had been so great a philosopher. But, believe me, these matters look much less terrible at a distance than when they are actually present. You will then find, I am afraid, that honour hath no more skill in cookery than Shakspear tells us it hath in surgery. D— n me if I don’t wish his lordship loved my wife as well as he doth yours, I promise you I would trust her virtue; and, if he should get the better of it, I should have people of fashion enough to keep me in countenance.”
Their second bottle being now almost out, Booth, without making any answer, called for a bill. Trent pressed very much the drinking another bottle, but Booth absolutely refused, and presently afterwards they parted, not extremely well satisfied with each other. They appeared, indeed, one to the other, in disadvantageous lights of a very different kind. Trent concluded Booth to be a very silly fellow, and Booth began to suspect that Trent was very little better than a scoundrel.
Contains a letter and other matters.
We will now return to Amelia; to whom, immediately upon her husband’s departure to walk with Mr. Trent, a porter brought the following letter, which she immediately opened and read:
“MADAM, — The quick despatch which I have given to your first commands will I hope assure you of the diligence with which I shall always obey every command that you are pleased to honour me with. I have, indeed, in this trifling affair, acted as if my life itself had been at stake; nay, I know not but it may be so; for this insignificant matter, you was pleased to tell me, would oblige the charming person in whose power is not only my happiness, but, as I am well persuaded, my life too. Let me reap therefore some little advantage in your eyes, as you have in mine, from this trifling occasion; for, if anything could add to the charms of which you are mistress, it would be perhaps that amiable zeal with which you maintain the cause of your friend. I hope, indeed, she will be my friend and advocate with the most lovely of her sex, as I think she hath reason, and as you was pleased to insinuate she had been. Let me beseech you, madam, let not that dear heart, whose tenderness is so inclined to compassionate the miseries of others, be hardened only against the sufferings which itself occasions. Let not that man alone have reason to think you cruel, who, of all others, would do the most to procure your kindness. How often have I lived over in my reflections, in my dreams, those two short minutes we were together! But, alas! how faint are these mimicries of the imagination! What would I not give to purchase the reality of such another blessing! This, madam, is in your power to bestow on the man who hath no wish, no will, no fortune, no heart, no life, but what are at your disposal. Grant me only the favour to be at Lady —— ‘s assembly. You can have nothing to fear from indulging me with a moment’s sight, a moment’s conversation; I will ask no more. I know your delicacy, and had rather die than offend it. Could I have seen you sometimes, I believe the fear of offending you would have kept my love for ever buried in my own bosom; but, to be totally excluded even from the sight of what my soul doats on is what I cannot bear. It is that alone which hath extorted the fatal secret from me. Let that obtain your forgiveness for me. I need not sign this letter otherwise than with that impression of my heart which I hope it bears; and, to conclude it in any form, no language hath words of devotion strong enough to tell you with what truth, what anguish, what zeal, what adoration I love you.”
Amelia had just strength to hold out to the end, when her trembling grew so violent that she dropt the letter, and had probably dropt herself, had not Mrs. Atkinson come timely in to support her.
“Good Heavens!” cries Mrs. Atkinson, “what is the matter with you, madam?”
“I know not what is the matter,” cries Amelia; “but I have received a letter at last from that infamous colonel.”
“You will take my opinion again then, I hope, madam,” cries Mrs. Atkinson. “But don’t be so affected; the letter cannot eat you or run away with you. Here it lies, I see; will you give me leave to read it?”
“Read it with all my heart,” cries Amelia; “and give me your advice how to act, for I am almost distracted.”
“Heydey!” says Mrs. Atkinson, “here is a piece of parchment too — what is that?” In truth, this parchment had dropt from the letter when Amelia first opened it; but her attention was so fixed by the contents of the letter itself that she had never read the other. Mrs. Atkinson had now opened the parchment first; and, after a moment’s perusal, the fire flashed from her eyes, and the blood flushed into her cheeks, and she cried out, in a rapture, “It is a commission for my husband! upon my soul, it is a commission for my husband:” and, at the same time, began to jump about the room in a kind of frantic fit of joy.
“What can be the meaning of all this?” cries Amelia, under the highest degree of astonishment.
“Do not I tell you, my dear madam,” cries she, “that it is a commission for my husband? and can you wonder at my being overjoyed at what I know will make him so happy? And now it is all out. The letter is not from the colonel, but from that noble lord of whom I have told you so much. But, indeed, madam, I have some pardons to ask of you. However, I know your goodness, and I will tell you all.
“You are to know then, madam, that I had not been in the Opera-house six minutes before a masque came up, and, taking me by the hand, led me aside. I gave the masque my hand; and, seeing a lady at that time lay hold on Captain Booth, I took that opportunity of slipping away from him; for though, by the help of the squeaking voice, and by attempting to mimic yours, I had pretty well disguised my own, I was still afraid, if I had much conversation with your husband, he would discover me. I walked therefore away with this masque to the upper end of the farthest room, where we sat down in a corner together. He presently discovered to me that he took me for you, and I soon after found out who he was; indeed, so far from attempting to disguise himself, he spoke in his own voice and in his own person. He now began to make very violent love to me, but it was rather in the stile of a great man of the present age than of an Arcadian swain. In short, he laid his whole fortune at my feet, and bade me make whatever terms I pleased, either for myself or for others. By others, I suppose he meant your husband. This, however, put a thought into my head of turning the present occasion to advantage. I told him there were two kinds of persons, the fallaciousness of whose promises had become proverbial in the world. These were lovers, and great men. What reliance, then, could I have on the promise of one who united in himself both those characters? That I had seen a melancholy instance, in a very worthy woman of my acquaintance (meaning myself, madam), of his want of generosity. I said I knew the obligations that he had to this woman, and the injuries he had done her, all which I was convinced she forgave, for that she had said the handsomest things in the world of him to me. He answered that he thought he had not been deficient in generosity to this lady (for I explained to him whom I meant); but that indeed, if she had spoke well of him to me (meaning yourself, madam), he would not fail to reward her for such an obligation. I then told him she had married a very deserving man, who had served long in the army abroad as a private man, and who was a serjeant in the guards; that I knew it was so very easy for him to get him a commission, that I should not think he had any honour or goodness in the world if he neglected it. I declared this step must be a preliminary to any good opinion he must ever hope for of mine. I then professed the greatest friendship to that lady (in which I am convinced you will think me serious), and assured him he would give me one of the highest pleasures in letting me be the instrument of doing her such a service. He promised me in a moment to do what you see, madam, he hath since done. And to you I shall always think myself indebted for it.”
“I know not how you are indebted to me,” cries Amelia. “Indeed, I am very glad of any good fortune that can attend poor Atkinson, but I wish it had been obtained some other way. Good Heavens! what must be the consequence of this? What must this lord think of me for listening to his mention of love? nay, for making any terms with him? for what must he suppose those terms mean? Indeed, Mrs. Atkinson, you carried it a great deal too far. No wonder he had the assurance to write to me in the manner he hath done. It is too plain what he conceives of me, and who knows what he may say to others? You may have blown up my reputation by your behaviour.”
“How is that possible?” answered Mrs. Atkinson. “Is it not in my power to clear up all matters? If you will but give me leave to make an appointment in your name I will meet him myself, and declare the whole secret to him.”
“I will consent to no such appointment,” cries Amelia. “I am heartily sorry I ever consented to practise any deceit. I plainly see the truth of what Dr Harrison hath often told me, that, if one steps ever so little out of the ways of virtue and innocence, we know not how we may slide, for all the ways of vice are a slippery descent.”
“That sentiment,” cries Mrs. Atkinson, “is much older than Dr Harrison. Omne vitium in proclivi est.”
“However new or old it is, I find it is true,” cries Amelia — “But, pray, tell me all, though I tremble to hear it.”
“Indeed, my dear friend,” said Mrs. Atkinson, “you are terrified at nothing — indeed, indeed, you are too great a prude.”
“I do not know what you mean by prudery,” answered Amelia. “I shall never be ashamed of the strictest regard to decency, to reputation, and to that honour in which the dearest of all human creatures hath his share. But, pray, give me the letter, there is an expression in it which alarmed me when I read it. Pray, what doth he mean by his two short minutes, and by purchasing the reality of such another blessing?”
“Indeed, I know not what he means by two minutes,” cries Mrs. Atkinson, “unless he calls two hours so; for we were not together much less. And as for any blessing he had, I am a stranger to it. Sure, I hope you have a better opinion of me than to think I granted him the last favour.”
“I don’t know what favours you granted him, madam,” answered Amelia peevishly, “but I am sorry you granted him any in my name.”
“Upon my word,” cries Mrs. Atkinson, “you use me unkindly, and it is an usage I did not expect at your hands, nor do I know that I have deserved it. I am sure I went to the masquerade with no other view than to oblige you, nor did I say or do anything there which any woman who is not the most confounded prude upon earth would have started at on a much less occasion than what induced me. Well, I declare upon my soul then, that, if I was a man, rather than be married to a woman who makes such a fuss with her virtue, I would wish my wife was without such a troublesome companion.”
“Very possibly, madam, these may be your sentiments,” cries Amelia, “and I hope they are the sentiments of your husband.”
“I desire, madam,” cries Mrs. Atkinson, “you would not reflect on my husband. He is a worthy man and as brave a man as yours; yes, madam, and he is now as much a captain.”
She spoke those words with so loud a voice, that Atkinson, who was accidentally going up-stairs, heard them; and, being surprized at the angry tone of his wife’s voice, he entered the room, and, with a look of much astonishment, begged to know what was the matter.
“The matter, my dear,” cries Mrs. Atkinson, “is that I have got a commission for you, and your good old friend here is angry with me for getting it.”
“I have not spirits enow,” cries Amelia, “to answer you as you deserve; and, if I had, you are below my anger.”
“I do not know, Mrs. Booth,” answered the other, “whence this great superiority over me is derived; but, if your virtue gives it you, I would have you to know, madam, that I despise a prude as much as you can do a ——.”
“Though you have several times,” cries Amelia, “insulted me with that word, I scorn to give you any ill language in return. If you deserve any bad appellation, you know it, without my telling it you.”
Poor Atkinson, who was more frightened than he had ever been in his life, did all he could to procure peace. He fell upon his knees to his wife, and begged her to compose herself; for indeed she seemed to be in a most furious rage.
While he was in this posture Booth, who had knocked so gently at the door, for fear of disturbing his wife, that he had not been heard in the tempest, came into the room. The moment Amelia saw him, the tears which had been gathering for some time, burst in a torrent from her eyes, which, however, she endeavoured to conceal with her handkerchief. The entry of Booth turned all in an instant into a silent picture, in which the first figure which struck the eyes of the captain was the serjeant on his knees to his wife.
Booth immediately cried, “What’s the meaning of this?” but received no answer. He then cast his eyes towards Amelia, and, plainly discerning her condition, he ran to her, and in a very tender phrase begged to know what was the matter. To which she answered, “Nothing, my dear, nothing of any consequence.” He replied that he would know, and then turned to Atkinson, and asked the same question.
Atkinson answered, “Upon my honour, sir, I know nothing of it. Something hath passed between madam and my wife; but what it is I know no more than your honour.”
“Your wife,” said Mrs. Atkinson, “hath used me cruelly ill, Mr. Booth. If you must be satisfied, that is the whole matter.”
Booth rapt out a great oath, and cried, “It is impossible; my wife is not capable of using any one ill.”
Amelia then cast herself upon her knees to her husband, and cried, “For Heaven’s sake do not throw yourself into a passion — some few words have past — perhaps I may be in the wrong.”
“Damnation seize me if I think so!” cries Booth. “And I wish whoever hath drawn these tears from your eyes may pay it with as many drops of their heart’s blood.”
“You see, madam,” cries Mrs. Atkinson, “you have your bully to take your part; so I suppose you will use your triumph.”
Amelia made no answer, but still kept hold of Booth, who, in a violent rage, cried out, “My Amelia triumph over such a wretch as thee! — What can lead thy insolence to such presumption! Serjeant, I desire you’ll take that monster out of the room, or I cannot answer for myself.”
The serjeant was beginning to beg his wife to retire (for he perceived very plainly that she had, as the phrase is, taken a sip too much that evening) when, with a rage little short of madness, she cried out, “And do you tamely see me insulted in such a manner, now that you are a gentleman, and upon a footing with him?”
“It is lucky for us all, perhaps,” answered Booth, “that he is not my equal.”
“You lie, sirrah,” said Mrs. Atkinson; “he is every way your equal; he is as good a gentleman as yourself, and as much an officer. No, I retract what I say; he hath not the spirit of a gentleman, nor of a man neither, or he would not bear to see his wife insulted.”
“Let me beg of you, my dear,” cries the serjeant, “to go with me and compose yourself.”
“Go with thee, thou wretch!” cries she, looking with the utmost disdain upon him; “no, nor ever speak to thee more.” At which words she burst out of the room, and the serjeant, without saying a word, followed her.
A very tender and pathetic scene now passed between Booth and his wife, in which, when she was a little composed, she related to him the whole story. For, besides that it was not possible for her otherwise to account for the quarrel which he had seen, Booth was now possessed of the letter that lay on the floor.
Amelia, having emptied her mind to her husband, and obtained his faithful promise that he would not resent the affair to my lord, was pretty well composed, and began to relent a little towards Mrs. Atkinson; but Booth was so highly incensed with her, that he declared he would leave her house the next morning; which they both accordingly did, and immediately accommodated themselves with convenient apartments within a few doors of their friend the doctor.
Containing some things worthy observation.
Notwithstanding the exchange of his lodgings, Booth did not forget to send an excuse to Mr. Trent, of whose conversation he had taken a full surfeit the preceding evening.
That day in his walks Booth met with an old brother-officer, who had served with him at Gibraltar, and was on half-pay as well as himself. He had not, indeed, had the fortune of being broke with his regiment, as was Booth, but had gone out, as they call it, on half-pay as a lieutenant, a rank to which he had risen in five-and-thirty years.
This honest gentleman, after some discourse with Booth, desired him to lend him half-a-crown, which he assured him he would faithfully pay the next day, when he was to receive some money for his sister. The sister was the widow of an officer that had been killed in the sea-service; and she and her brother lived together, on their joint stock, out of which they maintained likewise an old mother and two of the sister’s children, the eldest of which was about nine years old. “You must know,” said the old lieutenant, “I have been disappointed this morning by an old scoundrel, who wanted fifteen per cent, for advancing my sister’s pension; but I have now got an honest fellow who hath promised it me tomorrow at ten per cent.”
“And enough too, of all conscience,” cries Booth.
“Why, indeed, I think so too,” answered the other; “considering it is sure to be paid one time or other. To say the truth, it is a little hard the government doth not pay those pensions better; for my sister’s hath been due almost these two years; that is my way of thinking.”
Booth answered he was ashamed to refuse him such a sum; but, “Upon my soul,” said he, “I have not a single halfpenny in my pocket; for I am in a worse condition, if possible, than yourself; for I have lost all my money, and, what is worse, I owe Mr. Trent, whom you remember at Gibraltar, fifty pounds.”
“Remember him! yes, d — n him! I remember him very well,” cries the old gentleman, “though he will not remember me. He is grown so great now that he will not speak to his old acquaintance; and yet I should be ashamed of myself to be great in such a manner.”
“What manner do you mean?” cries Booth, a little eagerly.
“Why, by pimping,” answered the other; “he is pimp in ordinary to my Lord — — who keeps his family; or how the devil he lives else I don’t know, for his place is not worth three hundred pounds a year, and he and his wife spend a thousand at least. But she keeps an assembly, which, I believe, if you was to call a bawdy-house, you would not misname it. But d — n me if I had not rather be an honest man, and walk on foot, with holes in my shoes, as I do now, or go without a dinner, as I and all my family will today, than ride in a chariot and feast by such means. I am honest Bob Bound, and always will be; that’s my way of thinking; and there’s no man shall call me otherwise; for if he doth, I will knock him down for a lying rascal; that is my way of thinking.”
“And a very good way of thinking too,” cries Booth. “However, you shall not want a dinner today; for if you will go home with me, I will lend you a crown with all my heart.”
“Lookee,” said the old man, “if it be anywise inconvenient to you I will not have it; for I will never rob another man of his dinner to eat myself — that is my way of thinking.”
“Pooh!” said Booth; “never mention such a trifle twice between you and me. Besides, you say you can pay it me tomorrow; and I promise you that will be the same thing.”
They then walked together to Booth’s lodgings, where Booth, from Amelia’s pocket, gave his friend double the little sum he had asked. Upon which the old gentleman shook him heartily by the hand, and, repeating his intention of paying him the next day, made the best of his way to a butcher’s, whence he carried off a leg of mutton to a family that had lately kept Lent without any religious merit.
When he was gone Amelia asked her husband who that old gentleman was? Booth answered he was one of the scandals of his country; that the Duke of Marlborough had about thirty years before made him an ensign from a private man for very particular merit; and that he had not long since gone out of the army with a broken heart, upon having several boys put over his head. He then gave her an account of his family, which he had heard from the old gentleman in their way to his house, and with which we have already in a concise manner acquainted the reader.
“Good Heavens!” cries Amelia; “what are our great men made of? are they in reality a distinct species from the rest of mankind? are they born without hearts?”
“One would, indeed, sometimes,” cries Booth, “be inclined to think so. In truth, they have no perfect idea of those common distresses of mankind which are far removed from their own sphere. Compassion, if thoroughly examined, will, I believe, appear to be the fellow-feeling only of men of the same rank and degree of life for one another, on account of the evils to which they themselves are liable. Our sensations are, I am afraid, very cold towards those who are at a great distance from us, and whose calamities can consequently never reach us.”
“I remember,” cries Amelia, “a sentiment of Dr Harrison’s, which he told me was in some Latin book; I am a man myself, and my heart is interested in whatever can befal the rest of mankind. That is the sentiment of a good man, and whoever thinks otherwise is a bad one.”
“I have often told you, my dear Emily,” cries Booth, “that all men, as well the best as the worst, act alike from the principle of self-love. Where benevolence therefore is the uppermost passion, self-love directs you to gratify it by doing good, and by relieving the distresses of others; for they are then in reality your own. But where ambition, avarice, pride, or any other passion, governs the man and keeps his benevolence down, the miseries of all other men affect him no more than they would a stock or a stone. And thus the man and his statue have often the same degree of feeling or compassion.”
“I have often wished, my dear,” cries Amelia, “to hear you converse with Dr Harrison on this subject; for I am sure he would convince you, though I can’t, that there are really such things as religion and virtue.”
This was not the first hint of this kind which Amelia had given; for she sometimes apprehended from his discourse that he was little better than an atheist: a consideration which did not diminish her affection for him, but gave her great uneasiness. On all such occasions Booth immediately turned the discourse to some other subject; for, though he had in other points a great opinion of his wife’s capacity, yet as a divine or a philosopher he did not hold her in a very respectable light, nor did he lay any great stress on her sentiments in such matters. He now, therefore, gave a speedy turn to the conversation, and began to talk of affairs below the dignity of this history.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:54