In which Mr. Booth resumes his story.
“If I am not mistaken, madam,” continued Booth, “I was just going to acquaint you with the doctor’s opinion when we were interrupted by the keeper.
“The doctor, having heard counsel on both sides, that is to say, Mrs. Harris for my staying, and Miss Betty for my going, at last delivered his own sentiments. As for Amelia, she sat silent, drowned in her tears; nor was I myself in a much better situation.
“‘As the commissions are not signed,’ said the doctor, ‘I think you may be said to remain in your former regiment; and therefore I think you ought to go on this expedition; your duty to your king and country, whose bread you have eaten, requires it; and this is a duty of too high a nature to admit the least deficiency. Regard to your character, likewise, requires you to go; for the world, which might justly blame your staying at home if the case was even fairly stated, will not deal so honestly by you: you must expect to have every circumstance against you heightened, and most of what makes for your defence omitted; and thus you will be stigmatized as a coward without any palliation. As the malicious disposition of mankind is too well known, and the cruel pleasure which they take in destroying the reputations of others, the use we are to make of this knowledge is to afford no handle to reproach; for, bad as the world is, it seldom falls on any man who hath not given some slight cause for censure, though this, perhaps, is often aggravated ten thousand-fold; and, when we blame the malice of the aggravation we ought not to forget our own imprudence in giving the occasion. Remember, my boy, your honour is at stake; and you know how nice the honour of a soldier is in these cases. This is a treasure which he must be your enemy, indeed, who would attempt to rob you of. Therefore, you ought to consider every one as your enemy who, by desiring you to stay, would rob you of your honour.’
“‘Do you hear that, sister?’ cries Miss Betty. — ‘Yes, I do hear it’ answered Amelia, with more spirit than I ever saw her exert before, and would preserve his honour at the expense of my life. ‘I will preserve it if it should be at that expense; and since it is Dr Harrison’s opinion that he ought to go, I give my consent. Go, my dear husband,’ cried she, falling upon her knees: ‘may every angel of heaven guard and preserve you!’ — I cannot repeat her words without being affected,” said he, wiping his eyes, “the excellence of that woman no words can paint: Miss Matthews, she hath every perfection in human nature.
“I will not tire you with the repetition of any more that past on that occasion, nor with the quarrel that ensued between Mrs. Harris and the doctor; for the old lady could not submit to my leaving her daughter in her present condition. She fell severely on the army, and cursed the day in which her daughter was married to a soldier, not sparing the doctor for having had some share in the match. I will omit, likewise, the tender scene which past between Amelia and myself previous to my departure.” “Indeed, I beg you would not,” cries Miss Matthews; “nothing delights me more than scenes of tenderness. I should be glad to know, if possible, every syllable which was uttered on both sides.”
“I will indulge you then,” cries Booth, “as far as is in my power. Indeed, I believe I am able to recollect much the greatest part; for the impression is never to be effaced from my memory.”
He then proceeded as Miss Matthews desired; but, lest all our readers should not be of her opinion, we will, according to our usual custom, endeavour to accommodate ourselves to every taste, and shall, therefore, place this scene in a chapter by itself, which we desire all our readers who do not love, or who, perhaps, do not know the pleasure of tenderness, to pass over; since they may do this without any prejudice to the thread of the narrative.
Containing a scene of the tender kind.
“The doctor, madam,” continued Booth, “spent his evening at Mrs. Harris’s house, where I sat with him whilst he smoaked his pillow pipe, as his phrase is. Amelia was retired about half an hour to her chamber before I went to her. At my entrance I found her on her knees, a posture in which I never disturbed her. In a few minutes she arose, came to me, and embracing me, said she had been praying for resolution to support the cruellest moment she had ever undergone or could possibly undergo. I reminded her how much more bitter a farewel would be on a death-bed, when we never could meet, in this world at least, again. I then endeavoured to lessen all those objects which alarmed her most, and particularly the danger I was to encounter, upon which head I seemed a little to comfort her; but the probable length of my absence and the certain length of my voyage were circumstances which no oratory of mine could even palliate. ‘O heavens!’ said she, bursting into tears, ‘can I bear to think that hundreds, thousands for aught I know, of miles or leagues, that lands and seas are between us? What is the prospect from that mount in our garden where I have sat so many happy hours with my Billy? what is the distance between that and the farthest hill which we see from thence compared to the distance which will be between us? You cannot wonder at this idea; you must remember, my Billy, at this place, this very thought came formerly into my foreboding mind. I then begged you to leave the army. Why would you not comply? — did I not tell you then that the smallest cottage we could survey from the mount would be, with you, a paradise to me? it would be so still — why can’t my Billy think so? am I so much his superior in love? where is the dishonour, Billy? or, if there be any, will it reach our ears in our little hut? are glory and fame, and not his Amelia, the happiness of my husband? go then, purchase them at my expence. You will pay a few sighs, perhaps a few tears, at parting, and then new scenes will drive away the thoughts of poor Amelia from your bosom; but what assistance shall I have in my affliction? not that any change of scene could drive you one moment from my remembrance; yet here every object I behold will place your loved idea in the liveliest manner before my eyes. This is the bed in which you have reposed; that is the chair on which you sat. Upon these boards you have stood. These books you have read to me. Can I walk among our beds of flowers without viewing your favourites, nay, those which you have planted with your own hands? can I see one beauty from our beloved mount which you have not pointed out to me?’ — Thus she went on, the woman, madam, you see, still prevailing.” — “Since you mention it,” says Miss Matthews, with a smile, “I own the same observation occurred to me. It is too natural to us to consider ourselves only, Mr. Booth.” — “You shall hear,” he cried. “At last the thoughts of her present condition suggested themselves. — ’ But if,’ said she, ‘my situation, even in health, will be so intolerable, how shall I, in the danger and agonies of childbirth, support your absence?’ — Here she stopt, and, looking on me with all the tenderness imaginable, cried out, ‘And am I then such a wretch to wish for your presence at such a season? ought I not to rejoice that you are out of the hearing of my cries or the knowledge of my pains? if I die, will you not have escaped the horrors of a parting ten thousand times more dreadful than this? Go, go, my Billy; the very circumstance which made me most dread your departure hath perfectly reconciled me to it. I perceive clearly now that I was only wishing to support my own weakness with your strength, and to relieve my own pains at the price of yours. Believe me, my love, I am ashamed of myself.’ — I caught her in my arms with raptures not to be exprest in words, called her my heroine; sure none ever better deserved that name; after which we remained for some time speechless, and locked in each other’s embraces.” —
“I am convinced,” said Miss Matthews, with a sigh, “there are moments in life worth purchasing with worlds.”
“At length the fatal morning came. I endeavoured to hide every pang of my heart, and to wear the utmost gaiety in my countenance. Amelia acted the same part. In these assumed characters we met the family at breakfast; at their breakfast, I mean, for we were both full already. The doctor had spent above an hour that morning in discourse with Mrs. Harris, and had, in some measure, reconciled her to my departure. He now made use of every art to relieve the poor distressed Amelia; not by inveighing against the folly of grief, or by seriously advising her not to grieve; both of which were sufficiently performed by Miss Betty. The doctor, on the contrary, had recourse to every means which might cast a veil over the idea of grief, and raise comfortable images in my angel’s mind. He endeavoured to lessen the supposed length of my absence by discoursing on matters which were more distant in time. He said he intended next year to rebuild a part of his parsonage-house. ‘And you, captain,’ says he, ‘shall lay the corner-stone, I promise you:’ with many other instances of the like nature, which produced, I believe, some good effect on us both.
“Amelia spoke but little; indeed, more tears than words dropt from her; however, she seemed resolved to bear her affliction with resignation. But when the dreadful news arrived that the horses were ready, and I, having taken my leave of all the rest, at last approached her, she was unable to support the conflict with nature any longer, and, clinging round my neck, she cried, ‘Farewel, farewel for ever; for I shall never, never see you more.’ At which words the blood entirely forsook her lovely cheeks, and she became a lifeless corpse in my arms.
“Amelia continued so long motionless, that the doctor, as well as Mrs. Harris, began to be under the most terrible apprehensions; so they informed me afterwards, for at that time I was incapable of making any observation. I had indeed very little more use of my senses than the dear creature whom I supported. At length, however, we were all delivered from our fears; and life again visited the loveliest mansion that human nature ever afforded it.
“I had been, and yet was, so terrified with what had happened, and Amelia continued yet so weak and ill, that I determined, whatever might be the consequence, not to leave her that day; which resolution she was no sooner acquainted with than she fell on her knees, crying, ‘Good Heaven! I thank thee for this reprieve at least. Oh! that every hour of my future life could be crammed into this dear day!’
“Our good friend the doctor remained with us. He said he had intended to visit a family in some affliction; ‘but I don’t know,’ says he, ‘why I should ride a dozen miles after affliction, when we have enough here.’” Of all mankind the doctor is the best of comforters. As his excessive good-nature makes him take vast delight in the office, so his great penetration into the human mind, joined to his great experience, renders him the most wonderful proficient in it; and he so well knows when to soothe, when to reason, and when to ridicule, that he never applies any of those arts improperly, which is almost universally the case with the physicians of the mind, and which it requires very great judgment and dexterity to avoid.
“The doctor principally applied himself to ridiculing the dangers of the siege, in which he succeeded so well, that he sometimes forced a smile even into the face of Amelia. But what most comforted her were the arguments he used to convince her of the probability of my speedy if not immediate return. He said the general opinion was that the place would be taken before our arrival there; in which case we should have nothing more to do than to make the best of our way home again.
“Amelia was so lulled by these arts that she passed the day much better than I expected. Though the doctor could not make pride strong enough to conquer love, yet he exalted the former to make some stand against the latter; insomuch that my poor Amelia, I believe, more than once flattered herself, to speak the language of the, world, that her reason had gained an entire victory over her passion; till love brought up a reinforcement, if I may use that term, of tender ideas, and bore down all before him.
“In the evening the doctor and I passed another half-hour together, when he proposed to me to endeavour to leave Amelia asleep in the morning, and promised me to be at hand when she awaked, and to support her with all the assistance in his power. He added that nothing was more foolish than for friends to take leave of each other. ‘It is true, indeed,’ says he, ‘in the common acquaintance and friendship of the world, this is a very harmless ceremony; but between two persons who really love each other the church of Rome never invented a penance half so severe as this which we absurdly impose on ourselves’
“I greatly approved the doctor’s proposal; thanked him, and promised, if possible, to put it in execution. He then shook me by the hand, and heartily wished me well, saying, in his blunt way, ‘Well, boy, I hope to see thee crowned with laurels at thy return; one comfort I have at least, that stone walls and a sea will prevent thee from running away.’
“When I had left the doctor I repaired to my Amelia, whom I found in her chamber, employed in a very different manner from what she had been the preceding night; she was busy in packing up some trinkets in a casket, which she desired me to carry with me. This casket was her own work, and she had just fastened it as I came to her.
“Her eyes very plainly discovered what had passed while she was engaged in her work: however, her countenance was now serene, and she spoke, at least, with some chearfulness. But after some time, ‘You must take care of this casket, Billy,’ said she. ‘You must, indeed, Billy — for — ’ here passion almost choaked her, till a flood of tears gave her relief, and then she proceeded — ‘For I shall be the happiest woman that ever was born when I see it again.’ I told her, with the blessing of God, that day would soon come. ‘Soon!’ answered she. ‘No, Billy, not soon: a week is an age; — but yet the happy day may come. It shall, it must, it will! Yes, Billy, we shall meet never to part again, even in this world, I hope.’ Pardon my weakness, Miss Matthews, but upon my soul I cannot help it,” cried he, wiping his eyes. “Well, I wonder at your patience, and I will try it no longer. Amelia, tired out with so long a struggle between variety of passions, and having not closed her eyes during three successive nights, towards the morning fell into a profound sleep. In which sleep I left her, and, having drest myself with all the expedition imaginable, singing, whistling, hurrying, attempting by every method to banish thought, I mounted my horse, which I had over-night ordered to be ready, and galloped away from that house where all my treasure was deposited.
“Thus, madam, I have, in obedience to your commands, run through a scene which, if it hath been tiresome to you, you must yet acquit me of having obtruded upon you. This I am convinced of, that no one is capable of tasting such a scene who hath not a heart full of tenderness, and perhaps not even then, unless he hath been in the same situation.”
In which Mr. Booth sets forward on his journey.
“Well, madam, we have now taken our leave of Amelia. I rode a full mile before I once suffered myself to look back; but now being come to the top of a little hill, the last spot I knew which could give me a prospect of Mrs. Harris’s house, my resolution failed: I stopped and cast my eyes backward. Shall I tell you what I felt at that instant? I do assure you I am not able. So many tender ideas crowded at once into my mind, that, if I may use the expression, they almost dissolved my heart. And now, madam, the most unfortunate accident came first into my head. This was, that I had in the hurry and confusion left the dear casket behind me. The thought of going back at first suggested itself; but the consequences of that were too apparent. I therefore resolved to send my man, and in the meantime to ride on softly on my road. He immediately executed my orders, and after some time, feeding my eyes with that delicious and yet heartfelt prospect, I at last turned my horse to descend the hill, and proceeded about a hundred yards, when, considering with myself that I should lose no time by a second indulgence, I again turned back, and once more feasted my sight with the same painful pleasure till my man returned, bringing me the casket, and an account that Amelia still continued in the sweet sleep I left her. I now suddenly turned my horse for the last time, and with the utmost resolution pursued my journey.
“I perceived my man at his return — But before I mention anything of him it may be proper, madam, to acquaint you who he was. He was the foster-brother of my Amelia. This young fellow had taken it into his head to go into the army; and he was desirous to serve under my command. The doctor consented to discharge him; his mother at last yielded to his importunities, and I was very easily prevailed on to list one of the handsomest young fellows in England.
“You will easily believe I had some little partiality to one whose milk Amelia had sucked; but, as he had never seen the regiment, I had no opportunity to shew him any great mark of favour. Indeed he waited on me as my servant; and I treated him with all the tenderness which can be used to one in that station.
“When I was about to change into the horse-guards the poor fellow began to droop, fearing that he should no longer be in the same corps with me, though certainly that would not have been the case. However, he had never mentioned one word of his dissatisfaction. He is indeed a fellow of a noble spirit; but when he heard that I was to remain where I was, and that we were to go to Gibraltar together, he fell into transports of joy little short of madness. In short, the poor fellow had imbibed a very strong affection for me; though this was what I knew nothing of till long after.
“When he returned to me then, as I was saying, with the casket, I observed his eyes all over blubbered with tears. I rebuked him a little too rashly on this occasion. ‘Heyday!’ says I, ‘what is the meaning of this? I hope I have not a milk-sop with me. If I thought you would shew such a face to the enemy I would leave you behind.’ — ‘Your honour need not fear that,’ answered he; ‘I shall find nobody there that I shall love well enough to make me cry.’ I was highly pleased with this answer, in which I thought I could discover both sense and spirit. I then asked him what had occasioned those tears since he had left me (for he had no sign of any at that time), and whether he had seen his mother at Mrs. Harris’s? He answered in the negative, and begged that I would ask him no more questions; adding that he was not very apt to cry, and he hoped he should never give me such another opportunity of blaming him. I mention this only as an instance of his affection towards me; for I never could account for those tears any otherwise than by placing them to the account of that distress in which he left me at that time. We travelled full forty miles that day without baiting, when, arriving at the inn where I intended to rest that night, I retired immediately to my chamber, with my dear Amelia’s casket, the opening of which was the nicest repast, and to which every other hunger gave way.
“It is impossible to mention to you all the little matters with which Amelia had furnished this casket. It contained medicines of all kinds, which her mother, who was the Lady Bountiful of that country, had supplied her with. The most valuable of all to me was a lock of her dear hair, which I have from that time to this worn in my bosom. What would I have then given for a little picture of my dear angel, which she had lost from her chamber about a month before! and which we had the highest reason in the world to imagine her sister had taken away; for the suspicion lay only between her and Amelia’s maid, who was of all creatures the honestest, and whom her mistress had often trusted with things of much greater value; for the picture, which was set in gold, and had two or three little diamonds round it, was worth about twelve guineas only; whereas Amelia left jewels in her care of much greater value.”
“Sure,” cries Miss Matthews, “she could not be such a paultry pilferer.”
“Not on account of the gold or the jewels,” cries Booth. “We imputed it to mere spite, with which, I assure you, she abounds; and she knew that, next to Amelia herself, there was nothing which I valued so much as this little picture; for such a resemblance did it bear of the original, that Hogarth himself did never, I believe, draw a stronger likeness. Spite, therefore, was the only motive to this cruel depredation; and indeed her behaviour on the occasion sufficiently convinced us both of the justice of our suspicion, though we neither of us durst accuse her; and she herself had the assurance to insist very strongly (though she could not prevail) with Amelia to turn away her innocent maid, saying, she would not live in the house with a thief.”
Miss Matthews now discharged some curses on Miss Betty, not much worth repeating, and then Mr. Booth proceeded in his relation.
A sea piece.
“The next day we joined the regiment, which was soon after to embark. Nothing but mirth and jollity were in the countenance of every officer and soldier; and as I now met several friends whom I had not seen for above a year before, I passed several happy hours, in which poor Amelia’s image seldom obtruded itself to interrupt my pleasure. To confess the truth, dear Miss Matthews, the tenderest of passions is capable of subsiding; nor is absence from our dearest friends so unsupportable as it may at first appear. Distance of time and place do really cure what they seem to aggravate; and taking leave of our friends resembles taking leave of the world; concerning which it hath been often said that it is not death, but dying, which is terrible.” — Here Miss Matthews burst into a fit of laughter, and cried, “I sincerely ask your pardon; but I cannot help laughing at the gravity of your philosophy.” Booth answered, That the doctrine of the passions had been always his favourite study; that he was convinced every man acted entirely from that passion which was uppermost. “Can I then think,” said he, “without entertaining the utmost contempt for myself, that any pleasure upon earth could drive the thoughts of Amelia one instant from my mind?
“At length we embarked aboard a transport, and sailed for Gibraltar; but the wind, which was at first fair, soon chopped about; so that we were obliged, for several days, to beat to windward, as the sea phrase is. During this time the taste which I had of a seafaring life did not appear extremely agreeable. We rolled up and down in a little narrow cabbin, in which were three officers, all of us extremely sea-sick; our sickness being much aggravated by the motion of the ship, by the view of each other, and by the stench of the men. But this was but a little taste indeed of the misery which was to follow; for we were got about six leagues to the westward of Scilly, when a violent storm arose at north-east, which soon raised the waves to the height of mountains. The horror of this is not to be adequately described to those who have never seen the like. The storm began in the evening, and, as the clouds brought on the night apace, it was soon entirely dark; nor had we, during many hours, any other light than what was caused by the jarring elements, which frequently sent forth flashes, or rather streams of fire; and whilst these presented the most dreadful objects to our eyes, the roaring of the winds, the dashing of the waves against the ship and each other, formed a sound altogether as horrible for our ears; while our ship, sometimes lifted up, as it were, to the skies, and sometimes swept away at once as into the lowest abyss, seemed to be the sport of the winds and seas. The captain himself almost gave up all for lost, and exprest his apprehension of being inevitably cast on the rocks of Scilly, and beat to pieces. And now, while some on board were addressing themselves to the Supreme Being, and others applying for comfort to strong liquors, my whole thoughts were entirely engaged by my Amelia. A thousand tender ideas crouded into my mind. I can truly say that I had not a single consideration about myself in which she was not concerned. Dying to me was leaving her; and the fear of never seeing her more was a dagger stuck in my heart. Again, all the terrors with which this storm, if it reached her ears, must fill her gentle mind on my account, and the agonies which she must undergo when she heard of my fate, gave me such intolerable pangs, that I now repented my resolution, and wished, I own I wished, that I had taken her advice, and preferred love and a cottage to all the dazzling charms of honour.
“While I was tormenting myself with those meditations, and had concluded myself as certainly lost, the master came into the cabbin, and with a chearful voice assured us that we had escaped the danger, and that we had certainly past to westward of the rock. This was comfortable news to all present; and my captain, who had been some time on his knees, leapt suddenly up, and testified his joy with a great oath.
“A person unused to the sea would have been astonished at the satisfaction which now discovered itself in the master or in any on board; for the storm still raged with great violence, and the daylight, which now appeared, presented us with sights of horror sufficient to terrify minds which were not absolute slaves to the passion of fear; but so great is the force of habit, that what inspires a landsman with the highest apprehension of danger gives not the least concern to a sailor, to whom rocks and quicksands are almost the only objects of terror.
“The master, however, was a little mistaken in the present instance; for he had not left the cabbin above an hour before my man came running to me, and acquainted me that the ship was half full of water; that the sailors were going to hoist out the boat and save themselves, and begged me to come that moment along with him, as I tendered my preservation. With this account, which was conveyed to me in a whisper, I acquainted both the captain and ensign; and we all together immediately mounted the deck, where we found the master making use of all his oratory to persuade the sailors that the ship was in no danger; and at the same time employing all his authority to set the pumps a-going, which he assured them would keep the water under, and save his dear Lovely Peggy (for that was the name of the ship), which he swore he loved as dearly as his own soul.
“Indeed this sufficiently appeared; for the leak was so great, and the water flowed in so plentifully, that his Lovely Peggy was half filled before he could be brought to think of quitting her; but now the boat was brought alongside the ship, and the master himself, notwithstanding all his love for her, quitted his ship, and leapt into the boat. Every man present attempted to follow his example, when I heard the voice of my servant roaring forth my name in a kind of agony. I made directly to the ship-side, but was too late; for the boat, being already overladen, put directly off. And now, madam, I am going to relate to you an instance of heroic affection in a poor fellow towards his master, to which love itself, even among persons of superior education, can produce but few similar instances. My poor man, being unable to get me with him into the boat, leapt suddenly into the sea, and swam back to the ship; and, when I gently rebuked him for his rashness, he answered, he chose rather to die with me than to live to carry the account of my death to my Amelia: at the same time bursting into a flood of tears, he cried, ‘Good Heavens! what will that poor lady feel when she hears of this!’ This tender concern for my dear love endeared the poor fellow more to me than the gallant instance which he had just before given of his affection towards myself.
“And now, madam, my eyes were shocked with a sight, the horror of which can scarce be imagined; for the boat had scarce got four hundred yards from the ship when it was swallowed up by the merciless waves, which now ran so high, that out of the number of persons which were in the boat none recovered the ship, though many of them we saw miserably perish before our eyes, some of them very near us, without any possibility of giving them the least assistance.
“But, whatever we felt for them, we felt, I believe, more for ourselves, expecting every minute when we should share the same fate. Amongst the rest, one of our officers appeared quite stupified with fear. I never, indeed, saw a more miserable example of the great power of that passion: I must not, however, omit doing him justice, by saying that I afterwards saw the same man behave well in an engagement, in which he was wounded; though there likewise he was said to have betrayed the same passion of fear in his countenance.
“The other of our officers was no less stupified (if I may so express myself) with fool-hardiness, and seemed almost insensible of his danger. To say the truth, I have, from this and some other instances which I have seen, been almost inclined to think that the courage as well as cowardice of fools proceeds from not knowing what is or what is not the proper object of fear; indeed, we may account for the extreme hardiness of some men in the same manner as for the terrors of children at a bugbear. The child knows not but that the bugbear is the proper object of fear, the blockhead knows not that a cannon-ball is so.
“As to the remaining part of the ship’s crew and the soldiery, most of them were dead drunk, and the rest were endeavouring, as fast as they could, to prepare for death in the same manner.
“In this dreadful situation we were taught that no human condition should inspire men with absolute despair; for, as the storm had ceased for some time, the swelling of the sea began considerably to abate; and we now perceived the man of war which convoyed us, at no great distance astern. Those aboard her easily perceived our distress, and made towards us. When they came pretty near they hoisted out two boats to our assistance. These no sooner approached the ship than they were instantaneously filled, and I myself got a place in one of them, chiefly by the aid of my honest servant, of whose fidelity to me on all occasions I cannot speak or think too highly. Indeed, I got into the boat so much the more easily, as a great number on board the ship were rendered, by drink, incapable of taking any care for themselves. There was time, however, for the boat to pass and repass; so that, when we came to call over names, three only, of all that remained in the ship after the loss of her own boat, were missing.
“The captain, ensign, and myself, were received with many congratulations by our officers on board the man of war. — The sea-officers too, all except the captain, paid us their compliments, though these were of the rougher kind, and not without several jokes on our escape. As for the captain himself, we scarce saw him during many hours; and, when he appeared, he presented a view of majesty beyond any that I had ever seen. The dignity which he preserved did indeed give me rather the idea of a Mogul, or a Turkish emperor, than of any of the monarchs of Christendom. To say the truth, I could resemble his walk on the deck to nothing but the image of Captain Gulliver strutting among the Lilliputians; he seemed to think himself a being of an order superior to all around him, and more especially to us of the land service. Nay, such was the behaviour of all the sea-officers and sailors to us and our soldiers, that, instead of appearing to be subjects of the same prince, engaged in one quarrel, and joined to support one cause, we land-men rather seemed to be captives on board an enemy’s vessel. This is a grievous misfortune, and often proves so fatal to the service, that it is great pity some means could not be found of curing it.”
Here Mr. Booth stopt a while to take breath. We will therefore give the same refreshment to the reader.
The arrival of Booth at Gibraltar, with what there befel him.
“The adventures,” continued Booth, “which I happened to me from this day till my arrival at Gibraltar are not worth recounting to you. After a voyage the remainder of which was tolerably prosperous, we arrived in that garrison, the natural strength of which is so well known to the whole world.
“About a week after my arrival it was my fortune to be ordered on a sally party, in which my left leg was broke with a musket-ball; and I should most certainly have either perished miserably, or must have owed my preservation to some of the enemy, had not my faithful servant carried me off on his shoulders, and afterwards, with the assistance of one of his comrades, brought me back into the garrison.
“The agony of my wound was so great, that it threw me into a fever, from whence my surgeon apprehended much danger. I now began again to feel for my Amelia, and for myself on her account; and the disorder of my mind, occasioned by such melancholy contemplations, very highly aggravated the distemper of my body; insomuch that it would probably have proved fatal, had it not been for the friendship of one Captain James, an officer of our regiment, and an old acquaintance, who is undoubtedly one of the pleasantest companions and one of the best-natured men in the world. This worthy man, who had a head and a heart perfectly adequate to every office of friendship, stayed with me almost day and night during my illness; and by strengthening my hopes, raising my spirits, and cheering my thoughts, preserved me from destruction.
“The behaviour of this man alone is a sufficient proof of the truth of my doctrine, that all men act entirely from their passions; for Bob James can never be supposed to act from any motives of virtue or religion, since he constantly laughs at both; and yet his conduct towards me alone demonstrates a degree of goodness which, perhaps, few of the votaries of either virtue or religion can equal.” “You need not take much pains,” answered Miss Matthews, with a smile, “to convince me of your doctrine. I have been always an advocate for the same. I look upon the two words you mention to serve only as cloaks, under which hypocrisy may be the better enabled to cheat the world. I have been of that opinion ever since I read that charming fellow Mandevil.”
“Pardon me, madam,” answered Booth; “I hope you do not agree with Mandevil neither, who hath represented human nature in a picture of the highest deformity. He hath left out of his system the best passion which the mind can possess, and attempts to derive the effects or energies of that passion from the base impulses of pride or fear. Whereas it is as certain that love exists in the mind of man as that its opposite hatred doth; and the same reasons will equally prove the existence of the one as the existence of the other.”
“I don’t know, indeed,” replied the lady, “I never thought much about the matter. This I know, that when I read Mandevil I thought all he said was true; and I have been often told that he proves religion and virtue to be only mere names. However, if he denies there is any such thing as love, that is most certainly wrong. — I am afraid I can give him the lye myself.”
“I will join with you, madam, in that,” answered Booth, “at any time.”
“Will you join with me?” answered she, looking eagerly at him — “O, Mr. Booth! I know not what I was going to say — What — Where did you leave off? — I would not interrupt you — but I am impatient to know something.”
“What, madam?” cries Booth; “if I can give you any satisfaction — ”
“No, no,” said she, “I must hear all; I would not for the world break the thread of your story. Besides, I am afraid to ask — Pray, pray, sir, go on.”
“Well, madam,” cries Booth, “I think I was mentioning the extraordinary acts of friendship done me by Captain James; nor can I help taking notice of the almost unparalleled fidelity of poor Atkinson (for that was my man’s name), who was not only constant in the assiduity of his attendance, but during the time of my danger demonstrated a concern for me which I can hardly account for, as my prevailing on his captain to make him a sergeant was the first favour he ever received at my hands, and this did not happen till I was almost perfectly recovered of my broken leg. Poor fellow! I shall never forget the extravagant joy his halbert gave him; I remember it the more because it was one of the happiest days of my own life; for it was upon this day that I received a letter from my dear Amelia, after a long silence, acquainting me that she was out of all danger from her lying-in.
“I was now once more able to perform my duty; when (so unkind was the fortune of war), the second time I mounted the guard, I received a violent contusion from the bursting of a bomb. I was felled to the ground, where I lay breathless by the blow, till honest Atkinson came to my assistance, and conveyed me to my room, where a surgeon immediately attended me.
“The injury I had now received was much more dangerous in my surgeon’s opinion than the former; it caused me to spit blood, and was attended with a fever, and other bad symptoms; so that very fatal consequences were apprehended.
“In this situation, the image of my Amelia haunted me day and night; and the apprehensions of never seeing her more were so intolerable, that I had thoughts of resigning my commission, and returning home, weak as I was, that I might have, at least, the satisfaction of dying in the arms of my love. Captain James, however, persisted in dissuading me from any such resolution. He told me my honour was too much concerned, attempted to raise my hopes of recovery to the utmost of his power; but chiefly he prevailed on me by suggesting that, if the worst which I apprehended should happen, it was much better for Amelia that she should be absent than present in so melancholy an hour. ‘I know’ cried he, ‘the extreme joy which must arise in you from meeting again with Amelia, and the comfort of expiring in her arms; but consider what she herself must endure upon the dreadful occasion, and you would not wish to purchase any happiness at the price of so much pain to her.’ This argument at length prevailed on me; and it was after many long debates resolved, that she should not even know my present condition, till my doom either for life or death was absolutely fixed.”
“Oh! Heavens! how great! how generous!” cried Miss Matthews. “Booth, thou art a noble fellow; and I scarce think there is a woman upon earth worthy so exalted a passion.”
Booth made a modest answer to the compliment which Miss Matthews had paid him. This drew more civilities from the lady, and these again more acknowledgments; all which we shall pass by, and proceed with our history.
Containing matters which will please some readers.
“Two months and more had I continued in a state of incertainty, sometimes with more flattering, and sometimes with more alarming symptoms; when one afternoon poor Atkinson came running into my room, all pale and out of breath, and begged me not to be surprized at his news. I asked him eagerly what was the matter, and if it was anything concerning Amelia? I had scarce uttered the dear name when she herself rushed into the room, and ran hastily to me, crying, ‘Yes, it is, it is your Amelia herself.’
“There is nothing so difficult to describe, and generally so dull when described, as scenes of excessive tenderness.”
“Can you think so?” says Miss Matthews; “surely there is nothing so charming! — Oh! Mr. Booth, our sex is d — ned by the want of tenderness in yours. O, were they all like you — certainly no man was ever your equal.”
“Indeed, madam,” cries Booth, “you honour me too much. But — well — when the first transports of our meeting were over, Amelia began gently to chide me for having concealed my illness from her; for, in three letters which I had writ her since the accident had happened, there was not the least mention of it, or any hint given by which she could possibly conclude I was otherwise than in perfect health. And when I had excused myself, by assigning the true reason, she cried — ‘O Mr. Booth! and do you know so little of your Amelia as to think I could or would survive you? Would it not be better for one dreadful sight to break my heart all at once than to break it by degrees? — O Billy! can anything pay me for the loss of this embrace?’ —— But I ask your pardon — how ridiculous doth my fondness appear in your eyes!”
“How often,” answered she, “shall I assert the contrary? What would you have me say, Mr. Booth? Shall I tell you I envy Mrs. Booth of all the women in the world? would you believe me if I did? I hope you — what am I saying? Pray make no farther apology, but go on.”
“After a scene,” continued he, “too tender to be conceived by many, Amelia informed me that she had received a letter from an unknown hand, acquainting her with my misfortune, and advising her, if she ever desired to see me more, to come directly to Gibraltar. She said she should not have delayed a moment after receiving this letter, had not the same ship brought her one from me written with rather more than usual gaiety, and in which there was not the least mention of my indisposition. This, she said, greatly puzzled her and her mother, and the worthy divine endeavoured to persuade her to give credit to my letter, and to impute the other to a species of wit with which the world greatly abounds. This consists entirely in doing various kinds of mischief to our fellow-creatures, by belying one, deceiving another, exposing a third, and drawing in a fourth, to expose himself; in short, by making some the objects of laughter, others of contempt; and indeed not seldom by subjecting them to very great inconveniences, perhaps to ruin, for the sake of a jest.
“Mrs. Harris and the doctor derived the letter from this species of wit. Miss Betty, however, was of a different opinion, and advised poor Amelia to apply to an officer whom the governor had sent over in the same ship, by whom the report of my illness was so strongly confirmed, that Amelia immediately resolved on her voyage.
“I had a great curiosity to know the author of this letter, but not the least trace of it could be discovered. The only person with whom I lived in any great intimacy was Captain James, and he, madam, from what I have already told you, you will think to be the last person I could suspect; besides, he declared upon his honour that he knew nothing of the matter, and no man’s honour is, I believe, more sacred. There was indeed an ensign of another regiment who knew my wife, and who had sometimes visited me in my illness; but he was a very unlikely man to interest himself much in any affairs which did not concern him; and he too declared he knew nothing of it.”
“And did you never discover this secret?” cried Miss Matthews.
“Never to this day,” answered Booth.
“I fancy,” said she, “I could give a shrewd guess. What so likely as that Mrs. Booth, when you left her, should have given her foster-brother orders to send her word of whatever befel you? Yet stay — that could not be neither; for then she would not have doubted whether she should leave dear England on the receipt of the letter. No, it must have been by some other means; — yet that I own appeared extremely natural to me; for if I had been left by such a husband I think I should have pursued the same method.”
“No, madam,” cried Booth, “it must have been conveyed by some other channel; for my Amelia, I am certain, was entirely ignorant of the manner; and as for poor Atkinson, I am convinced he would not have ventured to take such a step without acquainting me. Besides, the poor fellow had, I believe, such a regard for my wife, out of gratitude for the favours she hath done his mother, that I make no doubt he was highly rejoiced at her absence from my melancholy scene. Well, whoever writ it is a matter very immaterial; yet, as it seemed so odd and unaccountable an incident, I could not help mentioning it.
“From the time of Amelia’s arrival nothing remarkable happened till my perfect recovery, unless I should observe her remarkable behaviour, so full of care and tenderness, that it was perhaps without a parallel.”
“O no, Mr. Booth,” cries the lady; “it is fully equalled, I am sure, by your gratitude. There is nothing, I believe, so rare as gratitude in your sex, especially in husbands. So kind a remembrance is, indeed, more than a return to such an obligation; for where is the mighty obligation which a woman confers, who being possessed of an inestimable jewel, is so kind to herself as to be careful and tender of it? I do not say this to lessen your opinion of Mrs. Booth. I have no doubt but that she loves you as well as she is capable. But I would not have you think so meanly of our sex as to imagine there are not a thousand women susceptible of true tenderness towards a meritorious man. Believe me, Mr. Booth, if I had received such an account of an accident having happened to such a husband, a mother and a parson would not have held me a moment. I should have leapt into the first fishing-boat I could have found, and bid defiance to the winds and waves. — Oh! there is no true tenderness but in a woman of spirit. I would not be understood all this while to reflect on Mrs. Booth. I am only defending the cause of my sex; for, upon my soul, such compliments to a wife are a satire on all the rest of womankind.”
“Sure you jest, Miss Matthews,” answered Booth with a smile; “however, if you please, I will proceed in my story.”
The captain, continuing his story, recounts some particulars which, we doubt not, to many good people, will appear unnatural.
I was scarce sooner recovered from my indisposition than Amelia herself fell ill. This, I am afraid, was occasioned by the fatigues which I could not prevent her from undergoing on my account; for, as my disease went off with violent sweats, during which the surgeon strictly ordered that I should lie by myself, my Amelia could not be prevailed upon to spend many hours in her own bed. During my restless fits she would sometimes read to me several hours together; indeed it was not without difficulty that she ever quitted my bedside. These fatigues, added to the uneasiness of her mind, overpowered her weak spirits, and threw her into one of the worst disorders that can possibly attend a woman; a disorder very common among the ladies, and our physicians have not agreed upon its name. Some call it fever on the spirits, some a nervous fever, some the vapours, and some the hysterics.”
“O say no more,” cries Miss Matthews; “I pity you, I pity you from my soul. A man had better be plagued with all the curses of Egypt than with a vapourish wife.”
“Pity me! madam,” answered Booth; “pity rather that dear creature who, from her love and care of my unworthy self, contracted a distemper, the horrors of which are scarce to be imagined. It is, indeed, a sort of complication of all diseases together, with almost madness added to them. In this situation, the siege being at an end, the governor gave me leave to attend my wife to Montpelier, the air of which was judged to be most likely to restore her to health. Upon this occasion she wrote to her mother to desire a remittance, and set forth the melancholy condition of her health, and her necessity for money, in such terms as would have touched any bosom not void of humanity, though a stranger to the unhappy sufferer. Her sister answered it, and I believe I have a copy of the answer in my pocket. I keep it by me as a curiosity, and you would think it more so could I shew you my Amelia’s letter.” He then searched his pocket-book, and finding the letter among many others, he read it in the following words:
“‘DEAR SISTER, — My mamma being much disordered, hath commanded me to tell you she is both shocked and surprized at your extraordinary request, or, as she chuses to call it, order for money. You know, my dear, she says that your marriage with this red-coat man was entirely against her consent and the opinion of all your family (I am sure I may here include myself in that number); and yet, after this fatal act of disobedience, she was prevailed on to receive you as her child; not, however, nor are you so to understand it, as the favourite which you was before. She forgave you; but this was as a Christian and a parent; still preserving in her own mind a just sense of your disobedience, and a just resentment on that account. And yet, notwithstanding this resentment, she desires you to remember that, when you a second time ventured to oppose her authority, and nothing would serve you but taking a ramble (an indecent one, I can’t help saying) after your fellow, she thought fit to shew the excess of a mother’s tenderness, and furnished you with no less than fifty pounds for your foolish voyage. How can she, then, be otherwise than surprized at your present demand? which, should she be so weak to comply with, she must expect to be every month repeated, in order to supply the extravagance of a young rakish officer. You say she will compassionate your sufferings; yes, surely she doth greatly compassionate them, and so do I too, though you was neither so kind nor so civil as to suppose I should. But I forgive all your slights to me, as well now as formerly. Nay, I not only forgive, but I pray daily for you. But, dear sister, what could you expect less than what hath happened? you should have believed your friends, who were wiser and older than you. I do not here mean myself, though I own I am eleven months and some odd weeks your superior; though, had I been younger, I might, perhaps, have been able to advise you; for wisdom and what some may call beauty do not always go together. You will not be offended at this; for I know in your heart, you have always held your head above some people, whom, perhaps, other people have thought better of; but why do I mention what I scorn so much? No, my dear sister, Heaven forbid it should ever be said of me that I value myself upon my face — not but if I could believe men perhaps — but I hate and despise men — you know I do, my dear, and I wish you had despised them as much; but jacta est jalea, as the doctor says. You are to make the best of your fortune — what fortune, I mean, my mamma may please to give you, for you know all is in her power. Let me advise you, then, to bring your mind to your circumstances, and remember (for I can’t help writing it, as it is for your own good) the vapours are a distemper which very ill become a knapsack. Remember, my dear, what you have done; remember what my mamma hath done; remember we have something of yours to keep, and do not consider yourself as an only child; no, nor as a favourite child; but be pleased to remember, Dear sister,
Your most affectionate sister,
and most obedient humble servant,
“O brave Miss Betty!” cried Miss Matthews; “I always held her in high esteem; but I protest she exceeds even what I could have expected from her.”
“This letter, madam,” cries Booth, “you will believe, was an excellent cordial for my poor wife’s spirits. So dreadful indeed was the effect it had upon her, that, as she had read it in my absence, I found her, at my return home, in the most violent fits; and so long was it before she recovered her senses, that I despaired of that blest event ever happening; and my own senses very narrowly escaped from being sacrificed to my despair. However, she came at last to herself, and I began to consider of every means of carrying her immediately to Montpelier, which was now become much more necessary than before.
“Though I was greatly shocked at the barbarity of the letter, yet I apprehended no very ill consequence from it; for, as it was believed all over the army that I had married a great fortune, I had received offers of money, if I wanted it, from more than one. Indeed, I might have easily carried my wife to Montpelier at any time; but she was extremely averse to the voyage, being desirous of our returning to England, as I had leave to do; and she grew daily so much better, that, had it not been for the receipt of that cursed — which I have just read to you, I am persuaded she might have been able to return to England in the next ship.
“Among others there was a colonel in the garrison who had not only offered but importuned me to receive money of him; I now, therefore, repaired to him; and, as a reason for altering my resolution, I produced the letter, and, at the same time, acquainted him with the true state of my affairs. The colonel read the letter, shook his head, and, after some silence, said he was sorry I had refused to accept his offer before; but that he had now so ordered matters, and disposed of his money, that he had not a shilling left to spare from his own occasions.
“Answers of the same kind I had from several others, but not one penny could I borrow of any; for I have been since firmly persuaded that the honest colonel was not content with denying me himself, but took effectual means, by spreading the secret I had so foolishly trusted him with, to prevent me from succeeding elsewhere; for such is the nature of men, that whoever denies himself to do you a favour is unwilling that it should be done to you by any other.
“This was the first time I had ever felt that distress which arises from the want of money; a distress very dreadful indeed in a married state; for what can be more miserable than to see anything necessary to the preservation of a beloved creature, and not be able to supply it?
“Perhaps you may wonder, madam, that I have not mentioned Captain James on this occasion; but he was at that time laid up at Algiers (whither he had been sent by the governor) in a fever. However, he returned time enough to supply me, which he did with the utmost readiness on the very first mention of my distress; and the good colonel, notwithstanding his having disposed of his money, discounted the captain’s draft. You see, madam, an instance in the generous behaviour of my friend James, how false are all universal satires against humankind. He is indeed one of the worthiest men the world ever produced.
“But, perhaps, you will be more pleased still with the extravagant generosity of my sergeant. The day before the return of Mr. James, the poor fellow came to me with tears in his eyes, and begged I would not be offended at what he was going to mention. He then pulled a purse from his pocket, which contained, he said, the sum of twelve pounds, and which he begged me to accept, crying, he was sorry it was not in his power to lend me whatever I wanted. I was so struck with this instance of generosity and friendship in such a person, that I gave him an opportunity of pressing me a second time before I made him an answer. Indeed, I was greatly surprised how he came to be worth that little sum, and no less at his being acquainted with my own wants. In both which points he presently satisfied me. As to the first, it seems he had plundered a Spanish officer of fifteen pistoles; and as to the second, he confessed he had it from my wife’s maid, who had overheard some discourse between her mistress and me. Indeed people, I believe, always deceive themselves, who imagine they can conceal distrest circumstances from their servants; for these are always extremely quicksighted on such occasions.”
“Good heavens!” cries Miss Matthews, “how astonishing is such behaviour in so low a fellow!”
“I thought so myself,” answered Booth; “and yet I know not, on a more strict examination into the matter, why we should be more surprised to see greatness of mind discover itself in one degree or rank of life than in another. Love, benevolence, or what you will please to call it, may be the reigning passion in a beggar as well as in a prince; and wherever it is, its energies will be the same.
“To confess the truth, I am afraid we often compliment what we call upper life, with too much injustice, at the expense of the lower. As it is no rare thing to see instances which degrade human nature in persons of the highest birth and education, so I apprehend that examples of whatever is really great and good have been sometimes found amongst those who have wanted all such advantages. In reality, palaces, I make no doubt, do sometimes contain nothing but dreariness and darkness, and the sun of righteousness hath shone forth with all its glory in a cottage.”
The story of Booth continued.
“Mr. Booth thus went on:
“We now took leave of the garrison, and, having landed at Marseilles, arrived at Montpelier, without anything happening to us worth remembrance, except the extreme sea-sickness of poor Amelia; but I was afterwards well repaid for the terrors which it occasioned me by the good consequences which attended it; for I believe it contributed, even more than the air of Montpelier, to the perfect reestablishment of her health.”
“I ask your pardon for interrupting you,” cries Miss Matthews, “but you never satisfied me whether you took the sergeant’s money. You have made me half in love with that charming fellow.”
“How can you imagine, madam,” answered Booth, “I should have taken from a poor fellow what was of so little consequence to me, and at the same time of so much to him? Perhaps, now, you will derive this from the passion of pride.”
“Indeed,” says she, “I neither derive it from the passion of pride nor from the passion of folly: but methinks you should have accepted the offer, and I am convinced you hurt him very much when you refused it. But pray proceed in your story.” Then Booth went on as follows:
“As Amelia recovered her health and spirits daily, we began to pass our time very pleasantly at Montpelier; for the greatest enemy to the French will acknowledge that they are the best people in the world to live amongst for a little while. In some countries it is almost as easy to get a good estate as a good acquaintance. In England, particularly, acquaintance is of almost as slow growth as an oak; so that the age of man scarce suffices to bring it to any perfection, and families seldom contract any great intimacy till the third, or at least the second generation. So shy indeed are we English of letting a stranger into our houses, that one would imagine we regarded all such as thieves. Now the French are the very reverse. Being a stranger among them entitles you to the better place, and to the greater degree of civility; and if you wear but the appearance of a gentleman, they never suspect you are not one. Their friendship indeed seldom extends as far as their purse; nor is such friendship usual in other countries. To say the truth, politeness carries friendship far enough in the ordinary occasions of life, and those who want this accomplishment rarely make amends for it by their sincerity; for bluntness, or rather rudeness, as it commonly deserves to be called, is not always so much a mark of honesty as it is taken to be.
“The day after our arrival we became acquainted with Mons. Bagillard. He was a Frenchman of great wit and vivacity, with a greater share of learning than gentlemen are usually possessed of. As he lodged in the same house with us, we were immediately acquainted, and I liked his conversation so well that I never thought I had too much of his company. Indeed, I spent so much of my time with him, that Amelia (I know not whether I ought to mention it) grew uneasy at our familiarity, and complained of my being too little with her, from my violent fondness for my new acquaintance; for, our conversation turning chiefly upon books, and principally Latin ones (for we read several of the classics together), she could have but little entertainment by being with us. When my wife had once taken it into her head that she was deprived of my company by M. Bagillard, it was impossible to change her opinion; and, though I now spent more of my time with her than I had ever done before, she still grew more and more dissatisfied, till at last she very earnestly desired me to quit my lodgings, and insisted upon it with more vehemence than I had ever known her express before. To say the truth, if that excellent woman could ever be thought unreasonable, I thought she was so on this occasion.
“But in what light soever her desires appeared to me, as they manifestly arose from an affection of which I had daily the most endearing proofs, I resolved to comply with her, and accordingly removed to a distant part of the town; for it is my opinion that we can have but little love for the person whom we will never indulge in an unreasonable demand. Indeed, I was under a difficulty with regard to Mons. Bagillard; for, as I could not possibly communicate to him the true reason for quitting my lodgings, so I found it as difficult to deceive him by a counterfeit one; besides, I was apprehensive I should have little less of his company than before. I could, indeed, have avoided this dilemma by leaving Montpelier, for Amelia had perfectly recovered her health; but I had faithfully promised Captain James to wait his return from Italy, whither he was gone some time before from Gibraltar; nor was it proper for Amelia to take any long journey, she being now near six months gone with child.
“This difficulty, however, proved to be less than I had imagined it; for my French friend, whether he suspected anything from my wife’s behaviour, though she never, as I observed, shewed him the least incivility, became suddenly as cold on his side. After our leaving the lodgings he never made above two or three formal visits; indeed his time was soon after entirely taken up by an intrigue with a certain countess, which blazed all over Montpelier.
“We had not been long in our new apartments before an English officer arrived at Montpelier, and came to lodge in the same house with us. This gentleman, whose name was Bath, was of the rank of a major, and had so much singularity in his character, that, perhaps, you never heard of any like him. He was far from having any of those bookish qualifications which had before caused my Amelia’s disquiet. It is true, his discourse generally turned on matters of no feminine kind; war and martial exploits being the ordinary topics of his conversation: however, as he had a sister with whom Amelia was greatly pleased, an intimacy presently grew between us, and we four lived in one family.
“The major was a great dealer in the marvellous, and was constantly the little hero of his own tale. This made him very entertaining to Amelia, who, of all the persons in the world, hath the truest taste and enjoyment of the ridiculous; for, whilst no one sooner discovers it in the character of another, no one so well conceals her knowledge of it from the ridiculous person. I cannot help mentioning a sentiment of hers on this head, as I think it doth her great honour. ‘If I had the same neglect,’ said she, ‘for ridiculous people with the generality of the world, I should rather think them the objects of tears than laughter; but, in reality, I have known several who, in some parts of their characters, have been extremely ridiculous, in others have been altogether as amiable. For instance,’ said she, ‘here is the major, who tells us of many things which he has never seen, and of others which he hath never done, and both in the most extravagant excess; and yet how amiable is his behaviour to his poor sister, whom he hath not only brought over hither for her health, at his own expence, but is come to bear her company.’ I believe, madam, I repeat her very words; for I am very apt to remember what she says.
“You will easily believe, from a circumstance I have just mentioned in the major’s favour, especially when I have told you that his sister was one of the best of girls, that it was entirely necessary to hide from her all kind of laughter at any part of her brother’s behaviour. To say the truth, this was easy enough to do; for the poor girl was so blinded with love and gratitude, and so highly honoured and reverenced her brother, that she had not the least suspicion that there was a person in the world capable of laughing at him.
“Indeed, I am certain she never made the least discovery of our ridicule; for I am well convinced she would have resented it: for, besides the love she bore her brother, she had a little family pride, which would sometimes appear. To say the truth, if she had any fault, it was that of vanity, but she was a very good girl upon the whole; and none of us are entirely free from faults.”
“You are a good-natured fellow, Will,” answered Miss Matthews; “but vanity is a fault of the first magnitude in a woman, and often the occasion of many others.”
To this Booth made no answer, but continued his story.
“In this company we passed two or three months very agreeably, till the major and I both betook ourselves to our several nurseries; my wife being brought to bed of a girl, and Miss Bath confined to her chamber by a surfeit, which had like to have occasioned her death.”
Here Miss Matthews burst into a loud laugh, of which when Booth asked the reason, she said she could not forbear at the thoughts of two such nurses.
“And did you really,” says she, “make your wife’s caudle yourself?”
“Indeed, madam,” said he, “I did; and do you think that so extraordinary?”
“Indeed I do,” answered she; “I thought the best husbands had looked on their wives’ lying-in as a time of festival and jollity. What! did you not even get drunk in the time of your wife’s delivery? tell me honestly how you employed yourself at this time.”
“Why, then, honestly,” replied he, “and in defiance of your laughter, I lay behind her bolster, and supported her in my arms; and, upon my soul, I believe I felt more pain in my mind than she underwent in her body. And now answer me as honestly: Do you really think it a proper time of mirth, when the creature one loves to distraction is undergoing the most racking torments, as well as in the most imminent danger? and — but I need not express any more tender circumstances.”
“I am to answer honestly,” cried she. “Yes, and sincerely,” cries Booth. “Why, then, honestly and sincerely,” says she, “may I never see heaven if I don’t think you an angel of a man!”
“Nay, madam,” answered Booth — “but, indeed, you do me too much honour; there are many such husbands. Nay, have we not an example of the like tenderness in the major? though as to him, I believe, I shall make you laugh. While my wife lay-in, Miss Bath being extremely ill, I went one day to the door of her apartment, to enquire after her health, as well as for the major, whom I had not seen during a whole week. I knocked softly at the door, and being bid to open it, I found the major in his sister’s ante-chamber warming her posset. His dress was certainly whimsical enough, having on a woman’s bedgown and a very dirty flannel nightcap, which, being added to a very odd person (for he is a very awkward thin man, near seven feet high), might have formed, in the opinion of most men, a very proper object of laughter. The major started from his seat at my entering into the room, and, with much emotion, and a great oath, cried out, ‘Is it you, sir?’ I then enquired after his and his sister’s health. He answered, that his sister was better, and he was very well, ‘though I did not expect, sir,’ cried he, with not a little confusion, ‘to be seen by you in this situation.’ I told him I thought it impossible he could appear in a situation more becoming his character. ‘You do not?’ answered he. ‘By G— I am very much obliged to you for that opinion; but, I believe, sir, however my weakness may prevail on me to descend from it, no man can be more conscious of his own dignity than myself.’ His sister then called to him from the inner room; upon which he rang the bell for her servant, and then, after a stride or two across the room, he said, with an elated aspect, ‘I would not have you think, Mr. Booth, because you have caught me in this deshabille, by coming upon me a little too abruptly — I cannot help saying a little too abruptly — that I am my sister’s nurse. I know better what is due to the dignity of a man, and I have shewn it in a line of battle. I think I have made a figure there, Mr. Booth, and becoming my character; by G— I ought not to be despised too much if my nature is not totally without its weaknesses.’ He uttered this, and some more of the same kind, with great majesty, or, as he called it, dignity. Indeed, he used some hard words that I did not understand; for all his words are not to be found in a dictionary. Upon the whole, I could not easily refrain from laughter; however, I conquered myself, and soon after retired from him, astonished that it was possible for a man to possess true goodness, and be at the same time ashamed of it.
“But, if I was surprized at what had past at this visit, how much more was I surprized the next morning, when he came very early to my chamber, and told me he had not been able to sleep one wink at what had past between us! ‘There were some words of yours,’ says he, ‘which must be further explained before we part. You told me, sir, when you found me in that situation, which I cannot bear to recollect, that you thought I could not appear in one more becoming my character; these were the words — I shall never forget them. Do you imagine that there is any of the dignity of a man wanting in my character? do you think that I have, during my sister’s illness, behaved with a weakness that savours too much of effeminacy? I know how much it is beneath a man to whine and whimper about a trifling girl as well as you or any man; and, if my sister had died, I should have behaved like a man on the occasion. I would not have you think I confined myself from company merely upon her account. I was very much disordered myself. And when you surprized me in that situation — I repeat again, in that situation — her nurse had not left the room three minutes, and I was blowing the fire for fear it should have gone out.’ — In this manner he ran on almost a quarter of an hour before he would suffer me to speak. At last, looking steadfastly in his face, I asked him if I must conclude that he was in earnest? ‘In earnest!’ says he, repeating my words, ‘do you then take my character for a jest?’ — Lookee, sir, said I, very gravely, I think we know one another very well; and I have no reason to suspect you should impute it to fear when I tell you I was so far from intending to affront you, that I meant you one of the highest compliments. Tenderness for women is so far from lessening, that it proves a true manly character. The manly Brutus shewed the utmost tenderness to his Portia; and the great king of Sweden, the bravest, and even fiercest of men, shut himself up three whole days in the midst of a campaign, and would see no company, on the death of a favourite sister. At these words I saw his features soften; and he cried out, ‘D— n me, I admire the king of Sweden of all the men in the world; and he is a rascal that is ashamed of doing anything which the king of Sweden did. — And yet, if any king of Sweden in France was to tell me that his sister had more merit than mine, by G— I’d knock his brains about his ears. Poor little Betsy! she is the honestest, worthiest girl that ever was born. Heaven be praised, she is recovered; for, if I had lost her, I never should have enjoyed another happy moment.’ In this manner he ran on some time, till the tears began to overflow; which when he perceived, he stopt; perhaps he was unable to go on; for he seemed almost choaked: after a short silence, however, having wiped his eyes with his handkerchief, he fetched a deep sigh, and cried, ‘I am ashamed you should see this, Mr. Booth; but d — n me, nature will get the better of dignity.’ I now comforted him with the example of Xerxes, as I had before done with that of the king of Sweden; and soon after we sat down to breakfast together with much cordial friendship; for I assure you, with all his oddity, there is not a better-natured man in the world than the major.”
“Good-natured, indeed!” cries Miss Matthews, with great scorn. “A fool! how can you mention such a fellow with commendation?”
Booth spoke as much as he could in defence of his friend; indeed, he had represented him in as favourable a light as possible, and had particularly left out those hard words with which, as he hath observed a little before, the major interlarded his discourse. Booth then proceeded as in the next chapter.
Containing very extraordinary matters.
“Miss Bath,” continued Booth, “now recovered so fast, that she was abroad as soon as my wife. Our little partie quarree began to grow agreeable again; and we mixed with the company of the place more than we had done before. Mons. Bagillard now again renewed his intimacy, for the countess, his mistress, was gone to Paris; at which my wife, at first, shewed no dissatisfaction; and I imagined that, as she had a friend and companion of her own sex (for Miss Bath and she had contracted the highest fondness for each other), that she would the less miss my company. However, I was disappointed in this expectation; for she soon began to express her former uneasiness, and her impatience for the arrival of Captain James, that we might entirely quit Montpelier.
“I could not avoid conceiving some little displeasure at this humour of my wife, which I was forced to think a little unreasonable.” — “A little, do you call it?” says Miss Matthews: “Good Heavens! what a husband are you!” — “How little worthy,” answered he, “as you will say hereafter, of such a wife as my Amelia. One day, as we were sitting together, I heard a violent scream; upon which my wife, starting up, cried out, ‘Sure that’s Miss Bath’s voice;’ and immediately ran towards the chamber whence it proceeded. I followed her; and when we arrived, we there beheld the most shocking sight imaginable; Miss Bath lying dead on the floor, and the major all bloody kneeling by her, and roaring out for assistance. Amelia, though she was herself in little better condition than her friend, ran hastily to her, bared her neck, and attempted to loosen her stays, while I ran up and down, scarce knowing what I did, calling for water and cordials, and despatching several servants one after another for doctors and surgeons.
“Water, cordials, and all necessary implements being brought, Miss Bath was at length recovered, and placed in her chair, when the major seated himself by her. And now, the young lady being restored to life, the major, who, till then, had engaged as little of his own as of any other person’s attention, became the object of all our considerations, especially his poor sister’s, who had no sooner recovered sufficient strength than she began to lament her brother, crying out that he was killed; and bitterly bewailing her fate, in having revived from her swoon to behold so dreadful a spectacle. While Amelia applied herself to soothe the agonies of her friend, I began to enquire into the condition of the major, in which I was assisted by a surgeon, who now arrived. The major declared, with great chearfulness, that he did not apprehend his wound to be in the least dangerous, and therefore begged his sister to be comforted, saying he was convinced the surgeon would soon give her the same assurance; but that good man was not so liberal of assurances as the major had expected; for as soon as he had probed the wound he afforded no more than hopes, declaring that it was a very ugly wound; but added, by way of consolation, that he had cured many much worse.
“When the major was drest his sister seemed to possess his whole thoughts, and all his care was to relieve her grief. He solemnly protested that it was no more than a flesh wound, and not very deep, nor could, as he apprehended, be in the least dangerous; and as for the cold expressions of the surgeon, he very well accounted for them from a motive too obvious to be mentioned. From these declarations of her brother, and the interposition of her friends, and, above all, I believe, from that vast vent which she had given to her fright, Miss Bath seemed a little pacified: Amelia, therefore, at last prevailed; and, as terror abated, curiosity became the superior passion. I therefore now began to enquire what had occasioned that accident whence all the uproar arose.
“The major took me by the hand, and, looking very kindly at me, said, ‘My dear Mr. Booth, I must begin by asking your pardon; for I have done you an injury for which nothing but the height of friendship in me can be an excuse; and therefore nothing but the height of friendship in you can forgive.’ This preamble, madam, you will easily believe, greatly alarmed all the company, but especially me. I answered, Dear major, I forgive you, let it be what it will; but what is it possible you can have done to injure me? ‘That,’ replied he, ‘which I am convinced a man of your honour and dignity of nature, by G — must conclude to be one of the highest injuries. I have taken out of your own hands the doing yourself justice. I am afraid I have killed the man who hath injured your honour. I mean that villain Bagillard — but I cannot proceed; for you, madam,’ said he to my wife, ‘are concerned, and I know what is due to the dignity of your sex.’ Amelia, I observed, turned pale at these words, but eagerly begged him to proceed. ‘Nay, madam,’ answered he, ‘if I am commanded by a lady, it is a part of my dignity to obey.’ He then proceeded to tell us that Bagillard had rallied him upon a supposition that he was pursuing my wife with a view of gallantry; telling him that he could never succeed; giving hints that, if it had been possible, he should have succeeded himself; and ending with calling my poor Amelia an accomplished prude; upon which the major gave Bagillard a box in the ear, and both immediately drew their swords.
“The major had scarce ended his speech when a servant came into the room, and told me there was a fryar below who desired to speak with me in great haste. I shook the major by the hand, and told him I not only forgave him, but was extremely obliged to his friendship; and then, going to the fryar, I found that he was Bagillard’s confessor, from whom he came to me, with an earnest desire of seeing me, that he might ask my pardon and receive my forgiveness before he died for the injury he had intended me. My wife at first opposed my going, from some sudden fears on my account; but when she was convinced they were groundless she consented.
“I found Bagillard in his bed; for the major’s sword had passed up to the very hilt through his body. After having very earnestly asked my pardon, he made me many compliments on the possession of a woman who, joined to the most exquisite beauty, was mistress of the most impregnable virtue; as a proof of which he acknowledged the vehemence as well as ill success of his attempts: and, to make Amelia’s virtue appear the brighter, his vanity was so predominant he could not forbear running over the names of several women of fashion who had yielded to his passion, which, he said, had never raged so violently for any other as for my poor Amelia; and that this violence, which he had found wholly unconquerable, he hoped would procure his pardon at my hands. It is unnecessary to mention what I said on the occasion. I assured him of my entire forgiveness; and so we parted. To say the truth, I afterwards thought myself almost obliged to him for a meeting with Amelia the most luxuriously delicate that can be imagined.
“I now ran to my wife, whom I embraced with raptures of love and tenderness. When the first torrent of these was a little abated, ‘Confess to me, my dear,’ said she, ‘could your goodness prevent you from thinking me a little unreasonable in expressing so much uneasiness at the loss of your company, while I ought to have rejoiced in the thoughts of your being so well entertained; I know you must; and then consider what I must have felt, while I knew I was daily lessening myself in your esteem, and forced into a conduct which I was sensible must appear to you, who was ignorant of my motive, to be mean, vulgar, and selfish. And yet, what other course had I to take with a man whom no denial, no scorn could abash? But, if this was a cruel task, how much more wretched still was the constraint I was obliged to wear in his presence before you, to shew outward civility to the man whom my soul detested, for fear of any fatal consequence from your suspicion; and this too while I was afraid he would construe it to be an encouragement? Do you not pity your poor Amelia when you reflect on her situation?’ Pity! cried I; my love! is pity an adequate expression for esteem, for adoration? But how, my love, could he carry this on so secretly? — by letters? ‘O no, he offered me many; but I never would receive but one, and that I returned him. Good G—! I would not have such a letter in my possession for the universe; I thought my eyes contaminated with reading it.’” “O brave!” cried Miss Matthews; “heroic, I protest.
“‘Had I a wish that did not bear
The stamp and image of my dear,
I’d pierce my heart through ev’ry vein,
And die to let it out again.’”
“And you can really,” cried he, “laugh at so much tenderness?” “I laugh at tenderness! O, Mr. Booth!” answered she, “thou knowest but little of Calista.” “I thought formerly,” cried he, “I knew a great deal, and thought you, of all women in the world, to have the greatest —— of all women!” “Take care, Mr. Booth,” said she. “By heaven! if you thought so, you thought truly. But what is the object of my tenderness — such an object as — ” “Well, madam,” says he, “I hope you will find one.” “I thank you for that hope, however,” says she, “cold as it is. But pray go on with your story;” which command he immediately obeyed.
Containing a letter of a very curious kind.
“The major’s wound,” continued Booth, “was really as slight as he believed it; so that in a very few days he was perfectly well; nor was Bagillard, though run through the body, long apprehending to be in any danger of his life. The major then took me aside, and, wishing me heartily joy of Bagillard’s recovery, told me I should now, by the gift (as it were) of Heaven, have an opportunity of doing myself justice. I answered I could not think of any such thing; for that when I imagined he was on his death-bed I had heartily and sincerely forgiven him. ‘Very right,’ replied the major, ‘and consistent with your honour, when he was on his death-bed; but that forgiveness was only conditional, and is revoked by his recovery.’ I told him I could not possibly revoke it; for that my anger was really gone. — ‘What hath anger,’ cried he, ‘to do with the matter? the dignity of my nature hath been always my reason for drawing my sword; and when that is concerned I can as readily fight with the man I love as with the man I hate.’ — I will not tire you with the repetition of the whole argument, in which the major did not prevail; and I really believe I sunk a little in his esteem upon that account, till Captain James, who arrived soon after, again perfectly reinstated me in his favour.
“When the captain was come there remained no cause of our longer stay at Montpelier; for, as to my wife, she was in a better state of health than I had ever known her; and Miss Bath had not only recovered her health but her bloom, and from a pale skeleton was become a plump, handsome young woman. James was again my cashier; for, far from receiving any remittance, it was now a long time since I had received any letter from England, though both myself and my dear Amelia had written several, both to my mother and sister; and now, at our departure from Montpelier, I bethought myself of writing to my good friend the doctor, acquainting him with our journey to Paris, whither I desired he would direct his answer.
“At Paris we all arrived without encountering any adventure on the road worth relating; nor did anything of consequence happen here during the first fortnight; for, as you know neither Captain James nor Miss Bath, it is scarce worth telling you that an affection, which afterwards ended in a marriage, began now to appear between them, in which it may appear odd to you that I made the first discovery of the lady’s flame, and my wife of the captain’s.
“The seventeenth day after our arrival at Paris I received a letter from the doctor, which I have in my pocket-book; and, if you please, I will read it you; for I would not willingly do any injury to his words.”
The lady, you may easily believe, desired to hear the letter, and Booth read it as follows:
“MY DEAR CHILDREN— For I will now call you so, as you have neither of you now any other parent in this world. Of this melancholy news I should have sent you earlier notice if I had thought you ignorant of it, or indeed if I had known whither to have written. If your sister hath received any letters from you she hath kept them a secret, and perhaps out of affection to you hath reposited them in the same place where she keeps her goodness, and, what I am afraid is much dearer to her, her money. The reports concerning you have been various; so is always the case in matters where men are ignorant; for, when no man knows what the truth is, every man thinks himself at liberty to report what he pleases. Those who wish you well, son Booth, say simply that you are dead: others, that you ran away from the siege, and was cashiered. As for my daughter, all agree that she is a saint above; and there are not wanting those who hint that her husband sent her thither. From this beginning you will expect, I suppose, better news than I am going to tell you; but pray, my dear children, why may not I, who have always laughed at my own afflictions, laugh at yours, without the censure of much malevolence? I wish you could learn this temper from me; for, take my word for it, nothing truer ever came from the mouth of a heathen than that sentence:
‘ —— Leve fit quod bene fertur onus.’ 8
And though I must confess I never thought Aristotle (whom I do not take for so great a blockhead as some who have never read him) doth not very well resolve the doubt which he hath raised in his Ethics, viz., How a man in the midst of King Priam’s misfortunes can be called happy? yet I have long thought that there is no calamity so great that a Christian philosopher may not reasonably laugh at it; if the heathen Cicero, doubting of immortality (for so wise a man must have doubted of that which had such slender arguments to support it), could assert it as the office of wisdom, Humanas res despicere atque infra se positas arbitrari.9
“Which passage, with much more to the same purpose, you will find in the third book of his Tusculan Questions.
“With how much greater confidence may a good Christian despise, and even deride, all temporary and short transitory evils! If the poor wretch, who is trudging on to his miserable cottage, can laugh at the storms and tempests, the rain and whirlwinds, which surround him, while his richest hope is only that of rest; how much more chearfully must a man pass through such transient evils, whose spirits are buoyed up with the certain expectation of finding a noble palace and the most sumptuous entertainment ready to receive him! I do not much like the simile; but I cannot think of a better. And yet, inadequate as the simile is, we may, I think, from the actions of mankind, conclude that they will consider it as much too strong; for, in the case I have put of the entertainment, is there any man so tender or poor-spirited as not to despise, and often to deride, the fiercest of these inclemencies which I have mentioned? but in our journey to the glorious mansions of everlasting bliss, how severely is every little rub, every trifling accident, lamented! and if Fortune showers down any of her heavier storms upon us, how wretched do we presently appear to ourselves and to others! The reason of this can be no other than that we are not in earnest in our faith; at the best, we think with too little attention on this our great concern. While the most paultry matters of this world, even those pitiful trifles, those childish gewgaws, riches and honours, are transacted with the utmost earnestness and most serious application, the grand and weighty affair of immortality is postponed and disregarded, nor ever brought into the least competition with our affairs here. If one of my cloth should begin a discourse of heaven in the scenes of business or pleasure; in the court of requests, at Garraway’s, or at White’s; would he gain a hearing, unless, perhaps, of some sorry jester who would desire to ridicule him? would he not presently acquire the name of the mad parson, and be thought by all men worthy of Bedlam? or would he not be treated as the Romans treated their Aretalogi,10 and considered in the light of a buffoon? But why should I mention those places of hurry and worldly pursuit? What attention do we engage even in the pulpit? Here, if a sermon be prolonged a little beyond the usual hour, doth it not set half the audience asleep? as I question not I have by this time both my children. Well, then, like a good-natured surgeon, who prepares his patient for a painful operation by endeavouring as much as he can to deaden his sensation, I will now communicate to you, in your slumbering condition, the news with which I threatened you. Your good mother, you are to know, is dead at last, and hath left her whole fortune to her elder daughter. — This is all the ill news I have to tell you. Confess now, if you are awake, did you not expect it was much worse; did not you apprehend that your charming child was dead? Far from it, he is in perfect health, and the admiration of everybody: what is more, he will be taken care of, with the tenderness of a parent, till your return. What pleasure must this give you! if indeed anything can add to the happiness of a married couple who are extremely and deservedly fond of each other, and, as you write me, in perfect health. A superstitious heathen would have dreaded the malice of Nemesis in your situation; but as I am a Christian, I shall venture to add another circumstance to your felicity, by assuring you that you have, besides your wife, a faithful and zealous friend. Do not, therefore, my dear children, fall into that fault which the excellent Thucydides observes is too common in human nature, to bear heavily the being deprived of the smaller good, without conceiving, at the same time, any gratitude for the much greater blessings which we are suffered to enjoy. I have only farther to tell you, my son, that, when you call at Mr. Morand’s, Rue Dauphine, you will find yourself worth a hundred pounds. Good Heaven! how much richer are you than millions of people who are in want of nothing! farewel, and know me for your sincere and affectionate friend.”
“There, madam,” cries Booth, “how do you like the letter?”
“Oh! extremely,” answered she: “the doctor is a charming man; I always loved dearly to hear him preach. I remember to have heard of Mrs. Harris’s death above a year before I left the country, but never knew the particulars of her will before. I am extremely sorry for it, upon my honour.”
“Oh, fy! madam,” cries Booth; “have you so soon forgot the chief purport of the doctor’s letter?”
“Ay, ay,” cried she; “these are very pretty things to read, I acknowledge; but the loss of fortune is a serious matter; and I am sure a man of Mr. Booth’s understanding must think so.” “One consideration, I must own, madam,” answered he, “a good deal baffled all the doctor’s arguments. This was the concern for my little growing family, who must one day feel the loss; nor was I so easy upon Amelia’s account as upon my own, though she herself put on the utmost chearfulness, and stretched her invention to the utmost to comfort me. But sure, madam, there is something in the doctor’s letter to admire beyond the philosophy of it; what think you of that easy, generous, friendly manner, in which he sent me the hundred pounds?”
“Very noble and great indeed,” replied she. “But pray go on with your story; for I long to hear the whole.”
In which Mr. Booth relates his return to England.
“Nothing remarkable, as I remember, happened during our stay at Paris, which we left soon after and came to London. Here we rested only two days, and then, taking leave of our fellow-travellers, we set out for Wiltshire, my wife being so impatient to see the child which she had left behind her, that the child she carried with her was almost killed with the fatigue of the journey.
“We arrived at our inn late in the evening. Amelia, though she had no great reason to be pleased with any part of her sister’s behaviour, resolved to behave to her as if nothing wrong had ever happened. She therefore sent a kind note to her the moment of our arrival, giving her her option, whether she would come to us at the inn, or whether we should that evening wait on her. The servant, after waiting an hour, brought us an answer, excusing her from coming to us so late, as she was disordered with a cold, and desiring my wife by no means to think of venturing out after the fatigue of her journey; saying, she would, on that account, defer the great pleasure of seeing her till the morning, without taking any more notice of your humble servant than if no such person had been in the world, though I had very civilly sent my compliments to her. I should not mention this trifle, if it was not to shew you the nature of the woman, and that it will be a kind of key to her future conduct.
“When the servant returned, the good doctor, who had been with us almost all the time of his absence, hurried us away to his house, where we presently found a supper and a bed prepared for us. My wife was eagerly desirous to see her child that night; but the doctor would not suffer it; and, as he was at nurse at a distant part of the town, and the doctor assured her he had seen him in perfect health that evening, she suffered herself at last to be dissuaded.
“We spent that evening in the most agreeable manner; for the doctor’s wit and humour, joined to the highest chearfulness and good nature, made him the most agreeable companion in the world: and he was now in the highest spirits, which he was pleased to place to our account. We sat together to a very late hour; for so excellent is my wife’s constitution, that she declared she was scarce sensible of any fatigue from her late journeys.
“Amelia slept not a wink all night, and in the morning early the doctor accompanied us to the little infant. The transports we felt on this occasion were really enchanting, nor can any but a fond parent conceive, I am certain, the least idea of them. Our imaginations suggested a hundred agreeable circumstances, none of which had, perhaps, any foundation. We made words and meaning out of every sound, and in every feature found out some resemblance to my Amelia, as she did to me.
“But I ask your pardon for dwelling on such incidents, and will proceed to scenes which, to most persons, will be more entertaining.
“We went hence to pay a visit to Miss Harris, whose reception of us was, I think, truly ridiculous; and, as you know the lady, I will endeavour to describe it particularly. At our first arrival we were ushered into a parlour, where we were suffered to wait almost an hour. At length the lady of the house appeared in deep mourning, with a face, if possible, more dismal than her dress, in which, however, there was every appearance of art. Her features were indeed skrewed up to the very height of grief. With this face, and in the most solemn gait, she approached Amelia, and coldly saluted her. After which she made me a very distant formal courtesy, and we all sat down. A short silence now ensued, which Miss Harris at length broke with a deep sigh, and said, ‘Sister, here is a great alteration in this place since you saw it last; Heaven hath been pleased to take my poor mother to itself.’ — (Here she wiped her eyes, and then continued.) — ‘I hope I know my duty, and have learned a proper resignation to the divine will; but something is to be allowed to grief for the best of mothers; for so she was to us both; and if at last she made any distinction, she must have had her reasons for so doing. I am sure I can truly say I never wished, much less desired it.’ The tears now stood in poor Amelia’s eyes; indeed, she had paid too many already for the memory of so unnatural a parent. She answered, with the sweetness of an angel, that she was far from blaming her sister’s emotions on so tender an occasion; that she heartily joined with her in her grief; for that nothing which her mother had done in the latter part of her life could efface the remembrance of that tenderness which she had formerly shewn her. Her sister caught hold of the word efface, and rung the changes upon it. — ‘Efface!’ cried she, ‘O Miss Emily (for you must not expect me to repeat names that will be for ever odious), I wish indeed everything could be effaced. — Effaced! O that that was possible! we might then have still enjoyed my poor mother; for I am convinced she never recovered her grief on a certain occasion.’ — Thus she ran on, and, after many bitter strokes upon her sister, at last directly charged her mother’s death on my marriage with Amelia. I could be silent then no longer. I reminded her of the perfect reconciliation between us before my departure, and the great fondness which she expressed for me; nor could I help saying, in very plain terms, that if she had ever changed her opinion of me, as I was not conscious of having deserved such a change by my own behaviour, I was well convinced to whose good offices I owed it. Guilt hath very quick ears to an accusation. Miss Harris immediately answered to the charge. She said, such suspicions were no more than she expected; that they were of a piece with every other part of my conduct, and gave her one consolation, that they served to account for her sister Emily’s unkindness, as well to herself as to her poor deceased mother, and in some measure lessened the guilt of it with regard to her, since it was not easy to know how far a woman is in the power of her husband. My dear Amelia reddened at this reflection on me, and begged her sister to name any single instance of unkindness or disrespect in which she had ever offended. To this the other answered (I am sure I repeat her words, though I cannot mimic either the voice or air with which they were spoken) — ‘Pray, Miss Emily, which is to be the judge, yourself or that gentleman? I remember the time when I could have trusted to your judgment in any affair; but you are now no longer mistress of yourself, and are not answerable for your actions. Indeed, it is my constant prayer that your actions may not be imputed to you. It was the constant prayer of that blessed woman, my dear mother, who is now a saint above; a saint whose name I can never mention without a tear, though I find you can hear it without one. I cannot help observing some concern on so melancholy an occasion; it seems due to decency; but, perhaps (for I always wish to excuse you) you are forbid to cry.’ The idea of being bid or forbid to cry struck so strongly on my fancy, that indignation only could have prevented me from laughing. But my narrative, I am afraid, begins to grow tedious. In short, after hearing, for near an hour, every malicious insinuation which a fertile genius could invent, we took our leave, and separated as persons who would never willingly meet again.
“The next morning after this interview Amelia received a long letter from Miss Harris; in which, after many bitter invectives against me, she excused her mother, alledging that she had been driven to do as she did in order to prevent Amelia’s ruin, if her fortune had fallen into my hands. She likewise very remotely hinted that she would be only a trustee for her sister’s children, and told her that on one condition only she would consent to live with her as a sister. This was, if she could by any means be separated from that man, as she was pleased to call me, who had caused so much mischief in the family.
“I was so enraged at this usage, that, had not Amelia intervened, I believe I should have applied to a magistrate for a search-warrant for that picture, which there was so much reason to suspect she had stolen; and which I am convinced, upon a search, we should have found in her possession.”
“Nay, it is possible enough,” cries Miss Matthews; “for I believe there is no wickedness of which the lady is not capable.”
“This agreeable letter was succeeded by another of the like comfortable kind, which informed me that the company in which I was, being an additional one raised in the beginning of the war, was reduced; so that I was now a lieutenant on half-pay.
“Whilst we were meditating on our present situation the good doctor came to us. When we related to him the manner in which my sister had treated us, he cried out, ‘Poor soul! I pity her heartily;’ for this is the severest resentment he ever expresses; indeed, I have often heard him say that a wicked soul is the greatest object of compassion in the world.” — A sentiment which we shall leave the reader a little time to digest.
In which Mr. Booth concludes his story.
“The next day the doctor set out for his parsonage, which was about thirty miles distant, whither Amelia and myself accompanied him, and where we stayed with him all the time of his residence there, being almost three months.
“The situation of the parish under my good friend’s care is very pleasant. It is placed among meadows, washed by a clear trout-stream, and flanked on both sides with downs. His house, indeed, would not much attract the admiration of the virtuoso. He built it himself, and it is remarkable only for its plainness; with which the furniture so well agrees, that there is no one thing in it that may not be absolutely necessary, except books, and the prints of Mr. Hogarth, whom he calls a moral satirist.
“Nothing, however, can be imagined more agreeable than the life that the doctor leads in this homely house, which he calls his earthly paradise. All his parishioners, whom he treats as his children, regard him as their common father. Once in a week he constantly visits every house in the parish, examines, commends, and rebukes, as he finds occasion. This is practised likewise by his curate in his absence; and so good an effect is produced by this their care, that no quarrels ever proceed either to blows or law-suits; no beggar is to be found in the whole parish; nor did I ever hear a very profane oath all the time I lived in it. “But to return from so agreeable a digression, to my own affairs, that are much less worth your attention. In the midst of all the pleasures I tasted in this sweet place and in the most delightful company, the woman and man whom I loved above all things, melancholy reflexions concerning my unhappy circumstances would often steal into my thoughts. My fortune was now reduced to less than forty pounds a-year; I had already two children, and my dear Amelia was again with child.
“One day the doctor found me sitting by myself, and employed in melancholy contemplations on this subject. He told me he had observed me growing of late very serious; that he knew the occasion, and neither wondered at nor blamed me. He then asked me if I had any prospect of going again into the army; if not, what scheme of life I proposed to myself?
“I told him that, as I had no powerful friends, I could have but little expectations in a military way; that I was as incapable of thinking of any other scheme, as all business required some knowledge or experience, and likewise money to set up with; of all which I was destitute.
“‘You must know then, child,’ said the doctor, ‘that I have been thinking on this subject as well as you; for I can think, I promise you, with a pleasant countenance.’ These were his words. ‘As to the army, perhaps means might be found of getting you another commission; but my daughter seems to have a violent objection to it; and to be plain, I fancy you yourself will find no glory make you amends for your absence from her. And for my part,’ said he, ‘I never think those men wise who, for any worldly interest, forego the greatest happiness of their lives. If I mistake not,’ says he, ‘a country life, where you could be always together, would make you both much happier people.’
“I answered, that of all things I preferred it most; and I believed Amelia was of the same opinion.
“The doctor, after a little hesitation, proposed to me to turn farmer, and offered to let me his parsonage, which was then become vacant. He said it was a farm which required but little stock, and that little should not be wanting.
“I embraced this offer very eagerly, and with great thankfulness, and immediately repaired to Amelia to communicate it to her, and to know her sentiments.
“Amelia received the news with the highest transports of joy; she said that her greatest fear had always been of my entring again into the army. She was so kind as to say that all stations of life were equal to her, unless as one afforded her more of my company than another. ‘And as to our children,’ said she, ‘let us breed them up to an humble fortune, and they will be contented with it; for none,’ added my angel, ‘deserve happiness, or, indeed, are capable of it, who make any particular station a necessary ingredient.’”
“Thus, madam, you see me degraded from my former rank in life; no longer Captain Booth, but farmer Booth at your service.
“During my first year’s continuance in this new scene of life, nothing, I think, remarkable happened; the history of one day would, indeed, be the history of the whole year.”
“Well, pray then,” said Miss Matthews, “do let us hear the history of that day; I have a strange curiosity to know how you could kill your time; and do, if possible, find out the very best day you can.”
“If you command me, madam,” answered Booth, “you must yourself be accountable for the dulness of the narrative. Nay, I believe, you have imposed a very difficult task on me; for the greatest happiness is incapable of description.
“I rose then, madam — ”
“O, the moment you waked, undoubtedly,” said Miss Matthews.
“Usually,” said he, “between five and six.”
“I will have no usually,” cried Miss Matthews, “you are confined to a day, and it is to be the best and happiest in the year.”
“Nay, madam,” cries Booth, “then I must tell you the day in which Amelia was brought to bed, after a painful and dangerous labour; for that I think was the happiest day of my life.”
“I protest,” said she, “you are become farmer Booth, indeed. What a happiness have you painted to my imagination! you put me in mind of a newspaper, where my lady such-a-one is delivered of a son, to the great joy of some illustrious family.”
“Why then, I do assure you, Miss Matthews,” cries Booth, “I scarce know a circumstance that distinguished one day from another. The whole was one continued series of love, health, and tranquillity. Our lives resembled a calm sea.” —
“The dullest of all ideas,” cries the lady.
“I know,” said he, “it must appear dull in description, for who can describe the pleasures which the morning air gives to one in perfect health; the flow of spirits which springs up from exercise; the delights which parents feel from the prattle and innocent follies of their children; the joy with which the tender smile of a wife inspires a husband; or lastly, the chearful, solid comfort which a fond couple enjoy in each other’s conversation? — All these pleasures and every other of which our situation was capable we tasted in the highest degree. Our happiness was, perhaps, too great; for fortune seemed to grow envious of it, and interposed one of the most cruel accidents that could have befallen us by robbing us of our dear friend the doctor.”
“I am sorry for it,” said Miss Matthews. “He was indeed a valuable man, and I never heard of his death before.”
“Long may it be before any one hears of it!” cries Booth. “He is, indeed, dead to us; but will, I hope, enjoy many happy years of life. You know, madam, the obligations he had to his patron the earl; indeed, it was impossible to be once in his company without hearing of them. I am sure you will neither wonder that he was chosen to attend the young lord in his travels as his tutor, nor that the good man, however disagreeable it might be (as in fact it was) to his inclination, should comply with the earnest request of his friend and patron.
“By this means I was bereft not only of the best companion in the world, but of the best counsellor; a loss of which I have since felt the bitter consequence; for no greater advantage, I am convinced, can arrive to a young man, who hath any degree of understanding, than an intimate converse with one of riper years, who is not only able to advise, but who knows the manner of advising. By this means alone, youth can enjoy the benefit of the experience of age, and that at a time of life when such experience will be of more service to a man than when he hath lived long enough to acquire it of himself.
“From want of my sage counsellor, I now fell into many errors. The first of these was in enlarging my business, by adding a farm of one hundred a year to the parsonage, in renting which I had also as bad a bargain as the doctor had before given me a good one. The consequence of which was, that whereas, at the end of the first year, I was worth upwards of fourscore pounds; at the end of the second I was near half that sum worse (as the phrase is) than nothing.
“A second folly I was guilty of in uniting families with the curate of the parish, who had just married, as my wife and I thought, a very good sort of a woman. We had not, however, lived one month together before I plainly perceived this good sort of a woman had taken a great prejudice against my Amelia, for which, if I had not known something of the human passions, and that high place which envy holds among them, I should not have been able to account, for, so far was my angel from having given her any cause of dislike, that she had treated her not only with civility, but kindness.
“Besides superiority in beauty, which, I believe, all the world would have allowed to Amelia, there was another cause of this envy, which I am almost ashamed to mention, as it may well be called my greatest folly. You are to know then, madam, that from a boy I had been always fond of driving a coach, in which I valued myself on having some skill. This, perhaps, was an innocent, but I allow it to have been a childish vanity. As I had an opportunity, therefore, of buying an old coach and harness very cheap (indeed they cost me but twelve pounds), and as I considered that the same horses which drew my waggons would likewise draw my coach, I resolved on indulging myself in the purchase.
“The consequence of setting up this poor old coach is inconceivable. Before this, as my wife and myself had very little distinguished ourselves from the other farmers and their wives, either in our dress or our way of living, they treated us as their equals; but now they began to consider us as elevating ourselves into a state of superiority, and immediately began to envy, hate, and declare war against us. The neighbouring little squires, too, were uneasy to see a poor renter become their equal in a matter in which they placed so much dignity; and, not doubting but it arose in me from the same ostentation, they began to hate me likewise, and to turn my equipage into ridicule, asserting that my horses, which were as well matched as any in the kingdom, were of different colours and sizes, with much more of that kind of wit, the only basis of which is lying.
“But what will appear most surprizing to you, madam, was, that the curate’s wife, who, being lame, had more use of the coach than my Amelia (indeed she seldom went to church in any other manner), was one of my bitterest enemies on the occasion. If she had ever any dispute with Amelia, which all the sweetness of my poor girl could not sometimes avoid, she was sure to introduce with a malicious sneer, ‘Though my husband doth not keep a coach, madam.’ Nay, she took this opportunity to upbraid my wife with the loss of her fortune, alledging that some folks might have had as good pretensions to a coach as other folks, and a better too, as they brought a better fortune to their husbands, but that all people had not the art of making brick without straw.
“You will wonder, perhaps, madam, how I can remember such stuff, which, indeed, was a long time only matter of amusement to both Amelia and myself; but we at last experienced the mischievous nature of envy, and that it tends rather to produce tragical than comical events. My neighbours now began to conspire against me. They nicknamed me in derision, the Squire Farmer. Whatever I bought, I was sure to buy dearer, and when I sold I was obliged to sell cheaper, than any other. In fact, they were all united, and, while they every day committed trespasses on my lands with impunity, if any of my cattle escaped into their fields, I was either forced to enter into a law-suit or to make amends fourfold for the damage sustained.
“The consequences of all this could be no other than that ruin which ensued. Without tiring you with particulars, before the end of four years I became involved in debt near three hundred pounds more than the value of all my effects. My landlord seized my stock for rent, and, to avoid immediate confinement in prison, I was forced to leave the country with all that I hold dear in the world, my wife and my poor little family.
“In this condition I arrived in town five or six days ago. I had just taken a lodging in the verge of the court, and had writ my dear Amelia word where she might find me, when she had settled her affairs in the best manner she could. That very evening, as I was returning home from a coffee-house, a fray happening in the street, I endeavoured to assist the injured party, when I was seized by the watch, and, after being confined all night in the round-house, was conveyed in the morning before a justice of peace, who committed me hither; where I should probably have starved, had I not from your hands found a most unaccountable preservation. — And here, give me leave to assure you, my dear Miss Matthews, that, whatever advantage I may have reaped from your misfortune, I sincerely lament it; nor would I have purchased any relief to myself at the price of seeing you in this dreadful place.”
He spake these last words with great tenderness; for he was a man of consummate good nature, and had formerly had much affection for this young lady; indeed, more than the generality of people are capable of entertaining for any person whatsoever.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:54