Containing very mysterious matter.
Miss Matthews did not in the least fall short of Mr. Booth in expressions of tenderness. Her eyes, the most eloquent orators on such occasions, exerted their utmost force; and at the conclusion of his speech she cast a look as languishingly sweet as ever Cleopatra gave to Antony. In real fact, this Mr. Booth had been her first love, and had made those impressions on her young heart, which the learned in this branch of philosophy affirm, and perhaps truly, are never to be eradicated.
When Booth had finished his story a silence ensued of some minutes; an interval which the painter would describe much better than the writer. Some readers may, however, be able to make pretty pertinent conjectures by what I have said above, especially when they are told that Miss Matthews broke the silence by a sigh, and cried, “Why is Mr. Booth unwilling to allow me the happiness of thinking my misfortunes have been of some little advantage to him? sure the happy Amelia would not be so selfish to envy me that pleasure. No; not if she was as much the fondest as she is the happiest of women.” “Good heavens! madam,” said he, “do you call my poor Amelia the happiest of women?” “Indeed I do,” answered she briskly. “O Mr. Booth! there is a speck of white in her fortune, which, when it falls to the lot of a sensible woman, makes her full amends for all the crosses which can attend her. Perhaps she may not be sensible of it; but if it had been my blest fate — O Mr. Booth! could I have thought, when we were first acquainted, that the most agreeable man in the world had been capable of making the kind, the tender, the affectionate husband — happy Amelia, in those days, was unknown; Heaven had not then given her a prospect of the happiness it intended her; but yet it did intend it her; for sure there is a fatality in the affairs of love; and the more I reflect on my own life, the more I am convinced of it. — O heavens! how a thousand little circumstances crowd into my mind! When you first marched into our town, you had then the colours in your hand; as you passed under the window where I stood, my glove, by accident, dropt into the street; you stoopt, took up my glove, and, putting it upon the spike belonging to your colours, lifted it up to the window. Upon this a young lady who stood by said, ‘So, miss, the young officer hath accepted your challenge.’ I blushed then, and I blush now, when I confess to you I thought you the prettiest young fellow I had ever seen; and, upon my soul, I believe you was then the prettiest fellow in the world.” Booth here made a low bow, and cried, “O dear madam, how ignorant was I of my own happiness!” “Would you really have thought so?” answered she. “However, there is some politeness if there be no sincerity in what you say.” — Here the governor of the enchanted castle interrupted them, and, entering the room without any ceremony, acquainted the lady and gentleman that it was locking-up time; and, addressing Booth by the name of captain, asked him if he would not please to have a bed; adding, that he might have one in the next room to the lady, but that it would come dear; for that he never let a bed in that room under a guinea, nor could he afford it cheaper to his father.
No answer was made to this proposal; but Miss Matthews, who had already learnt some of the ways of the house, said she believed Mr. Booth would like to drink a glass of something; upon which the governor immediately trumpeted forth the praises of his rack-punch, and, without waiting for any farther commands, presently produced a large bowl of that liquor.
The governor, having recommended the goodness of his punch by a hearty draught, began to revive the other matter, saying that he was just going to bed, and must first lock up. — “But suppose,” said Miss Matthews, with a smile, “the captain and I should have a mind to sit up all night.” — “With all my heart,” said the governor; “but I expect a consideration for those matters. For my part, I don’t enquire into what doth not concern me; but single and double are two things. If I lock up double I expect half a guinea, and I’m sure the captain cannot think that’s out of the way; it is but the price of a bagnio.”
Miss Matthews’s face became the colour of scarlet at those words. However, she mustered up her spirits, and, turning to Booth, said, “What say you, captain? for my own part, I had never less inclination to sleep; which hath the greater charms for you, the punch or the pillow?” — “I hope, madam,” answered Booth, “you have a better opinion of me than to doubt my preferring Miss Matthews’s conversation to either.” — “I assure you,” replied she, “it is no compliment to you to say I prefer yours to sleep at this time.”
The governor, then, having received his fee, departed; and, turning the key, left the gentleman and the lady to themselves.
In imitation of him we will lock up likewise a scene which we do not think proper to expose to the eyes of the public. If any over-curious readers should be disappointed on this occasion, we will recommend such readers to the apologies with which certain gay ladies have lately been pleased to oblige the world, where they will possibly find everything recorded that past at this interval.
But, though we decline painting the scene, it is not our intention to conceal from the world the frailty of Mr. Booth, or of his fair partner, who certainly past that evening in a manner inconsistent with the strict rules of virtue and chastity.
To say the truth, we are much more concerned for the behaviour of the gentleman than of the lady, not only for his sake, but for the sake of the best woman in the world, whom we should be sorry to consider as yoked to a man of no worth nor honour. We desire, therefore, the good-natured and candid reader will be pleased to weigh attentively the several unlucky circumstances which concurred so critically, that Fortune seemed to have used her utmost endeavours to ensnare poor Booth’s constancy. Let the reader set before his eyes a fine young woman, in a manner, a first love, conferring obligations and using every art to soften, to allure, to win, and to enflame; let him consider the time and place; let him remember that Mr. Booth was a young fellow in the highest vigour of life; and, lastly, let him add one single circumstance, that the parties were alone together; and then, if he will not acquit the defendant, he must be convicted, for I have nothing more to say in his defence.
The latter part of which we expect will please our reader better than the former.
A whole week did our lady and gentleman live in this criminal conversation, in which the happiness of the former was much more perfect than that of the latter; for, though the charms of Miss Matthews, and her excessive endearments, sometimes lulled every thought in the sweet lethargy of pleasure, yet in the intervals of his fits his virtue alarmed and roused him, and brought the image of poor injured Amelia to haunt and torment him. In fact, if we regard this world only, it is the interest of every man to be either perfectly good or completely bad. He had better destroy his conscience than gently wound it. The many bitter reflections which every bad action costs a mind in which there are any remains of goodness are not to be compensated by the highest pleasures which such an action can produce.
So it happened to Mr. Booth. Repentance never failed to follow his transgressions; and yet so perverse is our judgment, and so slippery is the descent of vice when once we are entered into it, the same crime which he now repented of became a reason for doing that which was to cause his future repentance; and he continued to sin on because he had begun. His repentance, however, returned still heavier and heavier, till, at last, it flung him into a melancholy, which Miss Matthews plainly perceived, and at which she could not avoid expressing some resentment in obscure hints and ironical compliments on Amelia’s superiority to her whole sex, who could not cloy a gay young fellow by many years’ possession. She would then repeat the compliments which others had made to her own beauty, and could not forbear once crying out, “Upon my soul, my dear Billy, I believe the chief disadvantage on my side is my superior fondness; for love, in the minds of men, hath one quality, at least, of a fever, which is to prefer coldness in the object. Confess, dear Will, is there not something vastly refreshing in the cool air of a prude?” Booth fetched a deep sigh, and begged her never more to mention Amelia’s name. “O Will,” cries she, “did that request proceed from the motive I could wish, I should be the happiest of womankind.” — “You would not, sure, madam,” said Booth, “desire a sacrifice which I must be a villain to make to any?” — “Desire!” answered she, “are there any bounds to the desires of love? have not I been sacrificed? hath not my first love been torn from my bleeding heart? I claim a prior right. As for sacrifices, I can make them too, and would sacrifice the whole world at the least call of my love.”
Here she delivered a letter to Booth, which she had received within an hour, the contents of which were these:—
“DEAREST MADAM, — Those only who truly know what love is, can have any conception of the horrors I felt at hearing of your confinement at my arrival in town, which was this morning. I immediately sent my lawyer to enquire into the particulars, who brought me the agreeable news that the man, whose heart’s blood ought not to be valued at the rate of a single hair of yours, is entirely out of all danger, and that you might be admitted to bail. I presently ordered him to go with two of my tradesmen, who are to be bound in any sum for your appearance, if he should be mean enough to prosecute you. Though you may expect my attorney with you soon, I would not delay sending this, as I hope the news will be agreeable to you. My chariot will attend at the same time to carry you wherever you please. You may easily guess what a violence I have done to myself in not waiting on you in person; but I, who know your delicacy, feared it might offend, and that you might think me ungenerous enough to hope from your distresses that happiness which I am resolved to owe to your free gift alone, when your good nature shall induce you to bestow on me what no man living can merit. I beg you will pardon all the contents of this hasty letter, and do me the honour of believing me,
Your most passionate admirer,
and most obedient humble servant,
Booth thought he had somewhere before seen the same hand, but in his present hurry of spirits could not recollect whose it was, nor did the lady give him any time for reflection; for he had scarce read the letter when she produced a little bit of paper and cried out, “Here, sir, here are the contents which he fears will offend me.” She then put a bank-bill of a hundred pounds into Mr. Booth’s hands, and asked him with a smile if he did not think she had reason to be offended with so much insolence?
Before Booth could return any answer the governor arrived, and introduced Mr. Rogers the attorney, who acquainted the lady that he had brought her discharge from her confinement, and that a chariot waited at the door to attend her wherever she pleased.
She received the discharge from Mr. Rogers, and said she was very much obliged to the gentleman who employed him, but that she would not make use of the chariot, as she had no notion of leaving that wretched place in a triumphant manner; in which resolution, when the attorney found her obstinate, he withdrew, as did the governor, with many bows and as many ladyships.
They were no sooner gone than Booth asked the lady why she would refuse the chariot of a gentleman who had behaved with such excessive respect? She looked earnestly upon him, and cried, “How unkind is that question! do you imagine I would go and leave you in such a situation? thou knowest but little of Calista. Why, do you think I would accept this hundred pounds from a man I dislike, unless it was to be serviceable to the man I love? I insist on your taking it as your own and using whatever you want of it.”
Booth protested in the solemnest manner that he would not touch a shilling of it, saying, he had already received too many obligations at her hands, and more than ever he should be able, he feared, to repay. “How unkind,” answered she, “is every word you say, why will you mention obligations? love never confers any. It doth everything for its own sake. I am not therefore obliged to the man whose passion makes him generous; for I feel how inconsiderable the whole world would appear to me if I could throw it after my heart.”
Much more of this kind past, she still pressing the bank-note upon him, and he as absolutely refusing, till Booth left the lady to dress herself, and went to walk in the area of the prison.
Miss Matthews now applied to the governor to know by what means she might procure the captain his liberty. The governor answered, “As he cannot get bail, it will be a difficult matter; and money to be sure there must be; for people no doubt expect to touch on these occasions. When prisoners have not wherewithal as the law requires to entitle themselves to justice, why they must be beholden to other people to give them their liberty; and people will not, to be sure, suffer others to be beholden to them for nothing, whereof there is good reason; for how should we all live if it was not for these things?” “Well, well,” said she, “and how much will it cost?” “How much!” answered he, — “How much! — why, let me see.” — Here he hesitated some time, and then answered “That for five guineas he would undertake to procure the captain his discharge. “That being the sum which he computed to remain in the lady’s pocket; for, as to the gentleman’s, he had long been acquainted with the emptiness of it.
Miss Matthews, to whom money was as dirt (indeed she may be thought not to have known the value of it), delivered him the bank-bill, and bid him get it changed; for if the whole, says she, will procure him his liberty, he shall have it this evening.
“The whole, madam!” answered the governor, as soon as he had recovered his breath, for it almost forsook him at the sight of the black word hundred — “No, no; there might be people indeed — but I am not one of those. A hundred! no, nor nothing like it. — As for myself, as I said, I will be content with five guineas, and I am sure that’s little enough. What other people will expect I cannot exactly say. To be sure his worship’s clerk will expect to touch pretty handsomely; as for his worship himself, he never touches anything, that is, not to speak of; but then the constable will expect something, and the watchman must have something, and the lawyers on both sides, they must have their fees for finishing.” — “Well,” said she, “I leave all to you. If it costs me twenty pounds I will have him discharged this afternoon. — But you must give his discharge into my hands without letting the captain know anything of the matter.”
The governor promised to obey her commands in every particular; nay, he was so very industrious, that, though dinner was just then coming upon the table, at her earnest request he set out immediately on the purpose, and went as he said in pursuit of the lawyer.
All the other company assembled at table as usual, where poor Booth was the only person out of spirits. This was imputed by all present to a wrong cause; nay, Miss Matthews herself either could not or would not suspect that there was anything deeper than the despair of being speedily discharged that lay heavy on his mind.
However, the mirth of the rest, and a pretty liberal quantity of punch, which he swallowed after dinner (for Miss Matthews had ordered a very large bowl at her own expense to entertain the good company at her farewell), so far exhilarated his spirits, that when the young lady and he retired to their tea he had all the marks of gayety in his countenance, and his eyes sparkled with good humour.
The gentleman and lady had spent about two hours in tea and conversation, when the governor returned, and privately delivered to the lady the discharge for her friend, and the sum of eighty-two pounds five shillings; the rest having been, he said, disbursed in the business, of which he was ready at any time to render an exact account.
Miss Matthews being again alone with Mr. Booth, she put the discharge into his hands, desiring him to ask her no questions; and adding, “I think, sir, we have neither of us now anything more to do at this place.” She then summoned the governor, and ordered a bill of that day’s expense, for long scores were not usual there; and at the same time ordered a hackney coach, without having yet determined whither she would go, but fully determined she was, wherever she went, to take Mr. Booth with her.
The governor was now approaching with a long roll of paper, when a faint voice was heard to cry out hastily, “Where is he?” — and presently a female spectre, all pale and breathless, rushed into the room, and fell into Mr. Booth’s arms, where she immediately fainted away.
Booth made a shift to support his lovely burden; though he was himself in a condition very little different from hers. Miss Matthews likewise, who presently recollected the face of Amelia, was struck motionless with the surprize, nay, the governor himself, though not easily moved at sights of horror, stood aghast, and neither offered to speak nor stir.
Happily for Amelia, the governess of the mansions had, out of curiosity, followed her into the room, and was the only useful person present on this occasion: she immediately called for water, and ran to the lady’s assistance, fell to loosening her stays, and performed all the offices proper at such a season; which had so good an effect, that Amelia soon recovered the disorder which the violent agitation of her spirits had caused, and found herself alive and awake in her husband’s arms.
Some tender caresses and a soft whisper or two passed privately between Booth and his lady; nor was it without great difficulty that poor Amelia put some restraint on her fondness in a place so improper for a tender interview. She now cast her eyes round the room, and, fixing them on Miss Matthews, who stood like a statue, she soon recollected her, and, addressing her by her name, said, “Sure, madam, I cannot be mistaken in those features; though meeting you here might almost make me suspect my memory.”
Miss Matthews’s face was now all covered with scarlet. The reader may easily believe she was on no account pleased with Amelia’s presence; indeed, she expected from her some of those insults of which virtuous women are generally so liberal to a frail sister: but she was mistaken; Amelia was not one
Who thought the nation ne’er would thrive,
Till all the whores were burnt alive.
Her virtue could support itself with its own intrinsic worth, without borrowing any assistance from the vices of other women; and she considered their natural infirmities as the objects of pity, not of contempt or abhorrence.
When Amelia therefore perceived the visible confusion in Miss Matthews she presently called to remembrance some stories which she had imperfectly heard; for, as she was not naturally attentive to scandal, and had kept very little company since her return to England, she was far from being a mistress of the lady’s whole history. However, she had heard enough to impute her confusion to the right cause; she advanced to her, and told her, she was extremely sorry to meet her in such a place, but hoped that no very great misfortune was the occasion of it.
Miss Matthews began, by degrees, to recover her spirits. She answered, with a reserved air, “I am much obliged to you, madam, for your concern; we are all liable to misfortunes in this world. Indeed, I know not why I should be much ashamed of being in any place where I am in such good company.”
Here Booth interposed. He had before acquainted Amelia in a whisper that his confinement was at an end. “The unfortunate accident, my dear,” said he, “which brought this young lady to this melancholy place is entirely determined; and she is now as absolutely at her liberty as myself.”
Amelia, imputing the extreme coldness and reserve of the lady to the cause already mentioned, advanced still more and more in proportion as she drew back; till the governor, who had withdrawn some time, returned, and acquainted Miss Matthews that her coach was at the door; upon which the company soon separated. Amelia and Booth went together in Amelia’s coach, and poor Miss Matthews was obliged to retire alone, after having satisfied the demands of the governor, which in one day only had amounted to a pretty considerable sum; for he, with great dexterity, proportioned the bills to the abilities of his guests.
It may seem, perhaps, wonderful to some readers, that Miss Matthews should have maintained that cold reserve towards Amelia, so as barely to keep within the rules of civility, instead of embracing an opportunity which seemed to offer of gaining some degree of intimacy with a wife whose husband she was so fond of; but, besides that her spirits were entirely disconcerted by so sudden and unexpected a disappointment; and besides the extreme horrors which she conceived at the presence of her rival, there is, I believe, something so outrageously suspicious in the nature of all vice, especially when joined with any great degree of pride, that the eyes of those whom we imagine privy to our failings are intolerable to us, and we are apt to aggravate their opinions to our disadvantage far beyond the reality.
Containing wise observations of the author, and other matters.
There is nothing more difficult than to lay down any fixed and certain rules for happiness; or indeed to judge with any precision of the happiness of others from the knowledge of external circumstances. There is sometimes a little speck of black in the brightest and gayest colours of fortune, which contaminates and deadens the whole. On the contrary, when all without looks dark and dismal, there is often a secret ray of light within the mind, which turns everything to real joy and gladness.
I have in the course of my life seen many occasions to make this observation, and Mr. Booth was at present a very pregnant instance of its truth. He was just delivered from a prison, and in the possession of his beloved wife and children; and (which might be imagined greatly to augment his joy) fortune had done all this for him within an hour, without giving him the least warning or reasonable expectation of the strange reverse in his circumstances; and yet it is certain that there were very few men in the world more seriously miserable than he was at this instant. A deep melancholy seized his mind, and cold damp sweats overspread his person, so that he was scarce animated; and poor Amelia, instead of a fond warm husband, bestowed her caresses on a dull lifeless lump of clay. He endeavoured, however, at first, as much as possible, to conceal what he felt, and attempted what is the hardest of all tasks, to act the part of a happy man; but he found no supply of spirits to carry on this deceit, and would have probably sunk under his attempt, had not poor Amelia’s simplicity helped him to another fallacy, in which he had much better success.
This worthy woman very plainly perceived the disorder in her husband’s mind; and, having no doubt of the cause of it, especially when she saw the tears stand in his eyes at the sight of his children, threw her arms round his neck, and, embracing him with rapturous fondness, cried out, “My dear Billy, let nothing make you uneasy. Heaven will, I doubt not, provide for us and these poor babes. Great fortunes are not necessary to happiness. For my own part, I can level my mind with any state; and for those poor little things, whatever condition of life we breed them to, that will be sufficient to maintain them in. How many thousands abound in affluence whose fortunes are much lower than ours! for it is not from nature, but from education and habit, that our wants are chiefly derived. Make yourself easy, therefore, my dear love; for you have a wife who will think herself happy with you, and endeavour to make you so, in any situation. Fear nothing, Billy, industry will always provide us a wholesome meal; and I will take care that neatness and chearfulness shall make it a pleasant one.”
Booth presently took the cue which she had given him. He fixed his eyes on her for a minute with great earnestness and inexpressible tenderness; and then cried, “O my Amelia, how much are you my superior in every perfection! how wise, how great, how noble are your sentiments! why can I not imitate what I so much admire? why can I not look with your constancy on those dear little pledges of our loves? All my philosophy is baffled with the thought that my Amelia’s children are to struggle with a cruel, hard, unfeeling world, and to buffet those waves of fortune which have overwhelmed their father. — Here, I own I want your firmness, and am not without an excuse for wanting it; for am I not the cruel cause of all your wretchedness? have I not stept between you and fortune, and been the cursed obstacle to all your greatness and happiness?”
“Say not so, my love,” answered she. “Great I might have been, but never happy with any other man. Indeed, dear Billy, I laugh at the fears you formerly raised in me; what seemed so terrible at a distance, now it approaches nearer, appears to have been a mere bugbear — and let this comfort you, that I look on myself at this day as the happiest of women; nor have I done anything which I do not rejoice in, and would, if I had the gift of prescience, do again.”
Booth was so overcome with this behaviour, that he had no words to answer. To say the truth, it was difficult to find any worthy of the occasion. He threw himself prostrate at her feet, whence poor Amelia was forced to use all her strength as well as entreaties to raise and place him in his chair.
Such is ever the fortitude of perfect innocence, and such the depression of guilt in minds not utterly abandoned. Booth was naturally of a sanguine temper; nor would any such apprehensions as he mentioned have been sufficient to have restrained his joy at meeting with his Amelia. In fact, a reflection on the injury he had done her was the sole cause of his grief. This it was that enervated his heart, and threw him into agonies, which all that profusion of heroic tenderness that the most excellent of women intended for his comfort served only to heighten and aggravate; as the more she rose in his admiration, the more she quickened his sense of his own unworthiness. After a disagreeable evening, the first of that kind that he had ever passed with his Amelia, in which he had the utmost difficulty to force a little chearfulness, and in which her spirits were at length overpowered by discerning the oppression on his, they retired to rest, or rather to misery, which need not be described.
The next morning at breakfast, Booth began to recover a little from his melancholy, and to taste the company of his children. He now first thought of enquiring of Amelia by what means she had discovered the place of his confinement. Amelia, after gently rebuking him for not having himself acquainted her with it, informed him that it was known all over the country, and that she had traced the original of it to her sister; who had spread the news with a malicious joy, and added a circumstance which would have frightened her to death, had not her knowledge of him made her give little credit to it, which was, that he was committed for murder. But, though she had discredited this part, she said the not hearing from him during several successive posts made her too apprehensive of the rest; that she got a conveyance therefore for herself and children to Salisbury, from whence the stage coach had brought them to town; and, having deposited the children at his lodging, of which he had sent her an account on his first arrival in town, she took a hack, and came directly to the prison where she heard he was, and where she found him.
Booth excused himself, and with truth, as to his not having writ; for, in fact, he had writ twice from the prison, though he had mentioned nothing of his confinement; but, as he sent away his letters after nine at night, the fellow to whom they were entrusted had burnt them both for the sake of putting the twopence in his own pocket, or rather in the pocket of the keeper of the next gin-shop. As to the account which Amelia gave him, it served rather to raise than to satisfy his curiosity. He began to suspect that some person had seen both him and Miss Matthews together in the prison, and had confounded her case with his; and this the circumstance of murder made the more probable. But who this person should be he could not guess. After giving himself, therefore, some pains in forming conjectures to no purpose, he was forced to rest contented with his ignorance of the real truth.
Two or three days now passed without producing anything remarkable; unless it were that Booth more and more recovered his spirits, and had now almost regained his former degree of chearfulness, when the following letter arrived, again to torment him:
“DEAR BILLY, “To convince you I am the most reasonable of women, I have given you up three whole days to the unmolested possession of my fortunate rival; I can refrain no longer from letting you know that I lodge in Dean Street, not far from the church, at the sign of the Pelican and Trumpet, where I expect this evening to see you.
“Believe me I am, with more affection than any other woman in the world can be, my dear Billy, Your affectionate, fond, doating
Booth tore the letter with rage, and threw it into the fire, resolving never to visit the lady more, unless it was to pay her the money she had lent him, which he was determined to do the very first opportunity, for it was not at present in his power.
This letter threw him back into his fit of dejection, in which he had not continued long when a packet from the country brought him the following from his friend Dr Harrison:
“Sir, Lyons, January 21, N. S. “Though I am now on my return home, I have taken up my pen to communicate to you some news I have heard from England, which gives me much uneasiness, and concerning which I can indeed deliver my sentiments with much more ease this way than any other. In my answer to your last, I very freely gave you my opinion, in which it was my misfortune to disapprove of every step you had taken; but those were all pardonable errors. Can you be so partial to yourself, upon cool and sober reflexion, to think what I am going to mention is so? I promise you, it appears to me a folly of so monstrous a kind, that, had I heard it from any but a person of the highest honour, I should have rejected it as utterly incredible. I hope you already guess what I am about to name; since, Heaven forbid, your conduct should afford you any choice of such gross instances of weakness. In a word, then, you have set up an equipage. What shall I invent in your excuse, either to others or to myself? In truth, I can find no excuse for you, and, what is more, I am certain you can find none for yourself. I must deal therefore very plainly and sincerely with you. Vanity is always contemptible; but when joined with dishonesty, it becomes odious and detestable. At whose expence are you to support this equipage? is it not entirely at the expence of others? and will it not finally end in that of your poor wife and children? you know you are two years in arrears to me. If I could impute this to any extraordinary or common accident I think I should never have mentioned it; but I will not suffer my money to support the ridiculous, and, I must say, criminal vanity of any one. I expect, therefore, to find, at my return, that you have either discharged my whole debt, or your equipage. Let me beg you seriously to consider your circumstances and condition in life, and to remember that your situation will not justify any the least unnecessary expence. Simply to be poor, says my favourite Greek historian, was not held scandalous by the wise Athenians, but highly so to owe that poverty to our own indiscretion.
“Present my affections to Mrs. Booth, and be assured that I shall not, without great reason, and great pain too, ever cease to be,
Your most faithful friend,
Had this letter come at any other time, it would have given Booth the most sensible affliction; but so totally had the affair of Miss Matthews possessed his mind, that, like a man in the most raging fit of the gout, he was scarce capable of any additional torture; nay, he even made an use of this latter epistle, as it served to account to Amelia for that concern which he really felt on another account. The poor deceived lady, therefore, applied herself to give him comfort where he least wanted it. She said he might easily perceive that the matter had been misrepresented to the doctor, who would not, she was sure, retain the least anger against him when he knew the real truth.
After a short conversation on this subject, in which Booth appeared to be greatly consoled by the arguments of his wife, they parted. He went to take a walk in the Park, and she remained at home to prepare him his dinner.
He was no sooner departed than his little boy, not quite six years old, said to Amelia, “La! mamma, what is the matter with poor papa, what makes him look so as if he was going to cry? he is not half so merry as he used to be in the country.” Amelia answered, “Oh! my dear, your papa is only a little thoughtful, he will be merry again soon.” — Then looking fondly on her children, she burst into an agony of tears, and cried, “Oh Heavens; what have these poor little infants done? why will the barbarous world endeavour to starve them, by depriving us of our only friend? — O my dear, your father is ruined, and we are undone!” — The children presently accompanied their mother’s tears, and the daughter cried — “Why, will anybody hurt poor papa? hath he done any harm to anybody?” — “No, my dear child,” said the mother; “he is the best man in the world, and therefore they hate him.” Upon which the boy, who was extremely sensible at his years, answered, “Nay, mamma, how can that be? have not you often told me that if I was good everybody would love me?” “All good people will,” answered she. “Why don’t they love papa then?” replied the child, “for I am sure he is very good.” “So they do, my dear,” said the mother, “but there are more bad people in the world, and they will hate you for your goodness.” “Why then, bad people,” cries the child, “are loved by more than the good.” — “No matter for that, my dear,” said she; “the love of one good person is more worth having than that of a thousand wicked ones; nay, if there was no such person in the world, still you must be a good boy; for there is one in Heaven who will love you, and his love is better for you than that of all mankind.”
This little dialogue, we are apprehensive, will be read with contempt by many; indeed, we should not have thought it worth recording, was it not for the excellent example which Amelia here gives to all mothers. This admirable woman never let a day pass without instructing her children in some lesson of religion and morality. By which means she had, in their tender minds, so strongly annexed the ideas of fear and shame to every idea of evil of which they were susceptible, that it must require great pains and length of habit to separate them. Though she was the tenderest of mothers, she never suffered any symptom of malevolence to shew itself in their most trifling actions without discouragement, without rebuke, and, if it broke forth with any rancour, without punishment. In which she had such success, that not the least mark of pride, envy, malice, or spite discovered itself in any of their little words or deeds.
In which Amelia appears in no unamiable light.
Amelia, with the assistance of a little girl, who was their only servant, had drest her dinner, and she had likewise drest herself as neat as any lady who had a regular sett of servants could have done, when Booth returned, and brought with him his friend James, whom he had met with in the Park; and who, as Booth absolutely refused to dine away from his wife, to whom he had promised to return, had invited himself to dine with him. Amelia had none of that paultry pride which possesses so many of her sex, and which disconcerts their tempers, and gives them the air and looks of furies, if their husbands bring in an unexpected guest, without giving them timely warning to provide a sacrifice to their own vanity. Amelia received her husband’s friend with the utmost complaisance and good humour: she made indeed some apology for the homeliness of her dinner; but it was politely turned as a compliment to Mr. James’s friendship, which could carry him where he was sure of being so ill entertained; and gave not the least hint how magnificently she would have provided had she expected the favour of so much good company. A phrase which is generally meant to contain not only an apology for the lady of the house, but a tacit satire on her guests for their intrusion, and is at least a strong insinuation that they are not welcome.
Amelia failed not to enquire very earnestly after her old friend Mrs. James, formerly Miss Bath, and was very sorry to find that she was not in town. The truth was, as James had married out of a violent liking of, or appetite to, her person, possession had surfeited him, and he was now grown so heartily tired of his wife, that she had very little of his company; she was forced therefore to content herself with being the mistress of a large house and equipage in the country ten months in the year by herself. The other two he indulged her with the diversions of the town; but then, though they lodged under the same roof, she had little more of her husband’s society than if they had been one hundred miles apart. With all this, as she was a woman of calm passions, she made herself contented; for she had never had any violent affection for James: the match was of the prudent kind, and to her advantage; for his fortune, by the death of an uncle, was become very considerable; and she had gained everything by the bargain but a husband, which her constitution suffered her to be very well satisfied without.
When Amelia, after dinner, retired to her children, James began to talk to his friend concerning his affairs. He advised Booth very earnestly to think of getting again into the army, in which he himself had met with such success, that he had obtained the command of a regiment to which his brother-inlaw was lieutenant-colonel. These preferments they both owed to the favour of fortune only; for, though there was no objection to either of their military characters, yet neither of them had any extraordinary desert; and, if merit in the service was a sufficient recommendation, Booth, who had been twice wounded in the siege, seemed to have the fairest pretensions; but he remained a poor half-pay lieutenant, and the others were, as we have said, one of them a lieutenant-colonel, and the other had a regiment. Such rises we often see in life, without being able to give any satisfactory account of the means, and therefore ascribe them to the good fortune of the person.
Both Colonel James and his brother-inlaw were members of parliament; for, as the uncle of the former had left him, together with his estate, an almost certain interest in a borough, so he chose to confer this favour on Colonel Bath; a circumstance which would have been highly immaterial to mention here, but as it serves to set forth the goodness of James, who endeavoured to make up in kindness to the family what he wanted in fondness for his wife.
Colonel James then endeavoured all in his power to persuade Booth to think again of a military life, and very kindly offered him his interest towards obtaining him a company in the regiment under his command. Booth must have been a madman, in his present circumstances, to have hesitated one moment at accepting such an offer, and he well knew Amelia, notwithstanding her aversion to the army, was much too wise to make the least scruple of giving her consent. Nor was he, as it appeared afterwards, mistaken in his opinion of his wife’s understanding; for she made not the least objection when it was communicated to her, but contented herself with an express stipulation, that wherever he was commanded to go (for the regiment was now abroad) she would accompany him.
Booth, therefore, accepted his friend’s proposal with a profusion of acknowledgments; and it was agreed that Booth should draw up a memorial of his pretensions, which Colonel James undertook to present to some man of power, and to back it with all the force he had.
Nor did the friendship of the colonel stop here. “You will excuse me, dear Booth,” said he, “if, after what you have told me” (for he had been very explicit in revealing his affairs to him), “I suspect you must want money at this time. If that be the case, as I am certain it must be, I have fifty pieces at your service.” This generosity brought the tears into Booth’s eyes; and he at length confest that he had not five guineas in the house; upon which James gave him a bank-bill for twenty pounds, and said he would give him thirty more the next time he saw him.
Thus did this generous colonel (for generous he really was to the highest degree) restore peace and comfort to this little family; and by this act of beneficence make two of the worthiest people two of the happiest that evening.
Here, reader, give me leave to stop a minute, to lament that so few are to be found of this benign disposition; that, while wantonness, vanity, avarice, and ambition are every day rioting and triumphing in the follies and weakness, the ruin and desolation of mankind, scarce one man in a thousand is capable of tasting the happiness of others. Nay, give me leave to wonder that pride, which is constantly struggling, and often imposing on itself, to gain some little preeminence, should so seldom hint to us the only certain as well as laudable way of setting ourselves above another man, and that is, by becoming his benefactor.
Containing an eulogium upon innocence, and other grave matters.
Booth past that evening, and all the succeeding day, with his Amelia, without the interruption of almost a single thought concerning Miss Matthews, after having determined to go on the Sunday, the only day he could venture without the verge in the present state of his affairs, and pay her what she had advanced for him in the prison. But she had not so long patience; for the third day, while he was sitting with Amelia, a letter was brought to him. As he knew the hand, he immediately put it into his pocket unopened, not without such an alteration in his countenance, that had Amelia, who was then playing with one of the children, cast her eyes towards him, she must have remarked it. This accident, however, luckily gave him time to recover himself; for Amelia was so deeply engaged with the little one, that she did not even remark the delivery of the letter. The maid soon after returned into the room, saying, the chairman desired to know if there was any answer to the letter. — “What letter?” cries Booth. — “The letter I gave you just now,” answered the girl. — “Sure,” cries Booth, “the child is mad, you gave me no letter.” — “Yes, indeed, I did, sir,” said the poor girl. “Why then as sure as fate,” cries Booth, “I threw it into the fire in my reverie; why, child, why did you not tell me it was a letter? bid the chairman come up, stay, I will go down myself; for he will otherwise dirt the stairs with his feet.”
Amelia was gently chiding the girl for her carelessness when Booth returned, saying it was very true that she had delivered him a letter from Colonel James, and that perhaps it might be of consequence. “However,” says he, “I will step to the coffee-house, and send him an account of this strange accident, which I know he will pardon in my present situation.”
Booth was overjoyed at this escape, which poor Amelia’s total want of all jealousy and suspicion made it very easy for him to accomplish; but his pleasure was considerably abated when, upon opening the letter, he found it to contain, mixed with several very strong expressions of love, some pretty warm ones of the upbraiding kind; but what most alarmed him was a hint that it was in her (Miss Matthews’s) power to make Amelia as miserable as herself. Besides the general knowledge of
—— Furens quid faemina possit,
he had more particular reasons to apprehend the rage of a lady who had given so strong an instance how far she could carry her revenge. She had already sent a chairman to his lodgings with a positive command not to return without an answer to her letter. This might of itself have possibly occasioned a discovery; and he thought he had great reason to fear that, if she did not carry matters so far as purposely and avowedly to reveal the secret to Amelia, her indiscretion would at least effect the discovery of that which he would at any price have concealed. Under these terrors he might, I believe, be considered as the most wretched of human beings.
O innocence, how glorious and happy a portion art thou to the breast that possesses thee! thou fearest neither the eyes nor the tongues of men. Truth, the most powerful of all things, is thy strongest friend; and the brighter the light is in which thou art displayed, the more it discovers thy transcendent beauties. Guilt, on the contrary, like a base thief, suspects every eye that beholds him to be privy to his transgressions, and every tongue that mentions his name to be proclaiming them. Fraud and falsehood are his weak and treacherous allies; and he lurks trembling in the dark, dreading every ray of light, lest it should discover him, and give him up to shame and punishment.
While Booth was walking in the Park with all these horrors in his mind he again met his friend Colonel James, who soon took notice of that deep concern which the other was incapable of hiding. After some little conversation, Booth said, “My dear colonel, I am sure I must be the most insensible of men if I did not look on you as the best and the truest friend; I will, therefore, without scruple, repose a confidence in you of the highest kind. I have often made you privy to my necessities, I will now acquaint you with my shame, provided you have leisure enough to give me a hearing: for I must open to you a long history, since I will not reveal my fault without informing you, at the same time, of those circumstances which, I hope, will in some measure excuse it.”
The colonel very readily agreed to give his friend a patient hearing. So they walked directly to a coffee-house at the corner of Spring–Garden, where, being in a room by themselves, Booth opened his whole heart, and acquainted the colonel with his amour with Miss Matthews, from the very beginning to his receiving that letter which had caused all his present uneasiness, and which he now delivered into his friend’s hand.
The colonel read the letter very attentively twice over (he was silent indeed long enough to have read it oftener); and then, turning to Booth, said, “Well, sir, and is it so grievous a calamity to be the object of a young lady’s affection; especially of one whom you allow to be so extremely handsome?” “Nay, but, my dear friend,” cries Booth, “do not jest with me; you who know my Amelia.” “Well, my dear friend,” answered James, “and you know Amelia and this lady too. But what would you have me do for you?” “I would have you give me your advice,” says Booth, “by what method I shall get rid of this dreadful woman without a discovery.” — “And do you really,” cries the other, “desire to get rid of her?” “Can you doubt it,” said Booth, “after what I have communicated to you, and after what you yourself have seen in my family? for I hope, notwithstanding this fatal slip, I do not appear to you in the light of a profligate.” “Well,” answered James, “and, whatever light I may appear to you in, if you are really tired of the lady, and if she be really what you have represented her, I’ll endeavour to take her off your hands; but I insist upon it that you do not deceive me in any particular.” Booth protested in the most solemn manner that every word which he had spoken was strictly true; and being asked whether he would give his honour never more to visit the lady, he assured James that he never would. He then, at his friend’s request, delivered him Miss Matthews’s letter, in which was a second direction to her lodgings, and declared to him that, if he could bring him safely out of this terrible affair, he should think himself to have a still higher obligation to his friendship than any which he had already received from it.
Booth pressed the colonel to go home with him to dinner; but he excused himself, being, as he said, already engaged. However, he undertook in the afternoon to do all in his power that Booth should receive no more alarms from the quarter of Miss Matthews, whom the colonel undertook to pay all the demands she had on his friend. They then separated. The colonel went to dinner at the King’s Arms, and Booth returned in high spirits to meet his Amelia.
The next day, early in the morning, the colonel came to the coffee-house and sent for his friend, who lodged but at a little distance. The colonel told him he had a little exaggerated the lady’s beauty; however, he said, he excused that, “for you might think, perhaps,” cries he, “that your inconstancy to the finest woman in the world might want some excuse. Be that as it will,” said he, “you may make yourself easy, as it will be, I am convinced, your own fault, if you have ever any further molestation from Miss Matthews.”
Booth poured forth very warmly a great profusion of gratitude on this occasion; and nothing more anywise material passed at this interview, which was very short, the colonel being in a great hurry, as he had, he said, some business of very great importance to transact that morning.
The colonel had now seen Booth twice without remembering to give him the thirty pounds. This the latter imputed intirely to forgetfulness; for he had always found the promises of the former to be equal in value with the notes or bonds of other people. He was more surprized at what happened the next day, when, meeting his friend in the Park, he received only a cold salute from him; and though he past him five or six times, and the colonel was walking with a single officer of no great rank, and with whom he seemed in no earnest conversation, yet could not Booth, who was alone, obtain any further notice from him.
This gave the poor man some alarm; though he could scarce persuade himself that there was any design in all this coldness or forgetfulness. Once he imagined that he had lessened himself in the colonel’s opinion by having discovered his inconstancy to Amelia; but the known character of the other presently cured him of his suspicion, for he was a perfect libertine with regard to women; that being indeed the principal blemish in his character, which otherwise might have deserved much commendation for good-nature, generosity, and friendship. But he carried this one to a most unpardonable height; and made no scruple of openly declaring that, if he ever liked a woman well enough to be uneasy on her account, he would cure himself, if he could, by enjoying her, whatever might be the consequence.
Booth could not therefore be persuaded that the colonel would so highly resent in another a fault of which he was himself most notoriously guilty. After much consideration he could derive this behaviour from nothing better than a capriciousness in his friend’s temper, from a kind of inconstancy of mind, which makes men grow weary of their friends with no more reason than they often are of their mistresses. To say the truth, there are jilts in friendship as well as in love; and, by the behaviour of some men in both, one would almost imagine that they industriously sought to gain the affections of others with a view only of making the parties miserable.
This was the consequence of the colonel’s behaviour to Booth. Former calamities had afflicted him, but this almost distracted him; and the more so as he was not able well to account for such conduct, nor to conceive the reason of it.
Amelia, at his return, presently perceived the disturbance in his mind, though he endeavoured with his utmost power to hide it; and he was at length prevailed upon by her entreaties to discover to her the cause of it, which she no sooner heard than she applied as judicious a remedy to his disordered spirits as either of those great mental physicians, Tully or Aristotle, could have thought of. She used many arguments to persuade him that he was in an error, and had mistaken forgetfulness and carelessness for a designed neglect.
But, as this physic was only eventually good, and as its efficacy depended on her being in the right, a point in which she was not apt to be too positive, she thought fit to add some consolation of a more certain and positive kind. “Admit,” said she, “my dear, that Mr. James should prove the unaccountable person you have suspected, and should, without being able to alledge any cause, withdraw his friendship from you (for surely the accident of burning his letter is too trifling and ridiculous to mention), why should this grieve you? the obligations he hath conferred on you, I allow, ought to make his misfortunes almost your own; but they should not, I think, make you see his faults so very sensibly, especially when, by one of the greatest faults in the world committed against yourself, he hath considerably lessened all obligations; for sure, if the same person who hath contributed to my happiness at one time doth everything in his power maliciously and wantonly to make me miserable at another, I am very little obliged to such a person. And let it be a comfort to my dear Billy, that, however other friends may prove false and fickle to him, he hath one friend, whom no inconstancy of her own, nor any change of his fortune, nor time, nor age, nor sickness, nor any accident, can ever alter; but who will esteem, will love, and doat on him for ever.” So saying, she flung her snowy arms about his neck, and gave him a caress so tender, that it seemed almost to balance all the malice of his fate.
And, indeed, the behaviour of Amelia would have made him completely happy, in defiance of all adverse circumstances, had it not been for those bitter ingredients which he himself had thrown into his cup, and which prevented him from truly relishing his Amelia’s sweetness, by cruelly reminding him how unworthy he was of this excellent creature.
Booth did not long remain in the dark as to the conduct of James, which, at first, appeared to him to be so great a mystery; for this very afternoon he received a letter from Miss Matthews which unravelled the whole affair. By this letter, which was full of bitterness and upbraiding, he discovered that James was his rival with that lady, and was, indeed, the identical person who had sent the hundred-pound note to Miss Matthews, when in the prison. He had reason to believe, likewise, as well by the letter as by other circumstances, that James had hitherto been an unsuccessful lover; for the lady, though she had forfeited all title to virtue, had not yet so far forfeited all pretensions to delicacy as to be, like the dirt in the street, indifferently common to all. She distributed her favours only to those she liked, in which number that gentleman had not the happiness of being included.
When Booth had made this discovery, he was not so little versed in human nature, as any longer to hesitate at the true motive to the colonel’s conduct; for he well knew how odious a sight a happy rival is to an unfortunate lover. I believe he was, in reality, glad to assign the cold treatment he had received from his friend to a cause which, however injustifiable, is at the same time highly natural; and to acquit him of a levity, fickleness, and caprice, which he must have been unwillingly obliged to have seen in a much worse light.
He now resolved to take the first opportunity of accosting the colonel, and of coming to a perfect explanation upon the whole matter. He debated likewise with himself whether he should not throw himself at Amelia’s feet, and confess a crime to her which he found so little hopes of concealing, and which he foresaw would occasion him so many difficulties and terrors to endeavour to conceal. Happy had it been for him, had he wisely pursued this step; since, in all probability, he would have received immediate forgiveness from the best of women; but he had not sufficient resolution, or, to speak perhaps more truly, he had too much pride, to confess his guilt, and preferred the danger of the highest inconveniences to the certainty of being put to the blush.
In which may appear that violence is sometimes done to the name of love.
When that happy day came, in which unhallowed hands are forbidden to contaminate the shoulders of the unfortunate, Booth went early to the colonel’s house, and, being admitted to his presence, began with great freedom, though with great gentleness, to complain of his not having dealt with him with more openness. “Why, my dear colonel,” said he, “would you not acquaint me with that secret which this letter hath disclosed?” James read the letter, at which his countenance changed more than once; and then, after a short silence, said, “Mr. Booth, I have been to blame, I own it; and you upbraid me with justice. The true reason was, that I was ashamed of my own folly. D— n me, Booth, if I have not been a most consummate fool, a very dupe to this woman; and she hath a particular pleasure in making me so. I know what the impertinence of virtue is, and I can submit to it; but to be treated thus by a whore — You must forgive me, dear Booth, but your success was a kind of triumph over me, which I could not bear. I own, I have not the least reason to conceive any anger against you; and yet, curse me if I should not have been less displeased at your lying with my own wife; nay, I could almost have parted with half my fortune to you more willingly than have suffered you to receive that trifle of my money which you received at her hands. However, I ask your pardon, and I promise you I will never more think of you with the least ill-will on the account of this woman; but as for her, d — n me if I do not enjoy her by some means or other, whatever it costs me; for I am already above two hundred pounds out of pocket, without having scarce had a smile in return.”
Booth exprest much astonishment at this declaration; he said he could not conceive how it was possible to have such an affection for a woman who did not shew the least inclination to return it. James gave her a hearty curse, and said, “Pox of her inclination; I want only the possession of her person, and that, you will allow, is a very fine one. But, besides my passion for her, she hath now piqued my pride; for how can a man of my fortune brook being refused by a whore?” — “Since you are so set on the business,” cries Booth, “you will excuse my saying so, I fancy you had better change your method of applying to her; for, as she is, perhaps, the vainest woman upon earth, your bounty may probably do you little service, nay, may rather actually disoblige her. Vanity is plainly her predominant passion, and, if you will administer to that, it will infallibly throw her into your arms. To this I attribute my own unfortunate success. While she relieved my wants and distresses she was daily feeding her own vanity; whereas, as every gift of yours asserted your superiority, it rather offended than pleased her. Indeed, women generally love to be of the obliging side; and, if we examine their favourites, we shall find them to be much oftener such as they have conferred obligations on than such as they have received them from.”
There was something in this speech which pleased the colonel; and he said, with a smile, “I don’t know how it is, Will, but you know women better than I.” — “Perhaps, colonel,” answered Booth, “I have studied their minds more.” — “I don’t, however, much envy your knowledge,” replied the other, “for I never think their minds worth considering. However, I hope I shall profit a little by your experience with Miss Matthews. Damnation seize the proud insolent harlot! the devil take me if I don’t love her more than I ever loved a woman!”
The rest of their conversation turned on Booth’s affairs. The colonel again reassumed the part of a friend, gave him the remainder of the money, and promised to take the first opportunity of laying his memorial before a great man.
Booth was greatly overjoyed at this success. Nothing now lay on his mind but to conceal his frailty from Amelia, to whom he was afraid Miss Matthews, in the rage of her resentment, would communicate it. This apprehension made him stay almost constantly at home; and he trembled at every knock at the door. His fear, moreover, betrayed him into a meanness which he would have heartily despised on any other occasion. This was to order the maid to deliver him any letter directed to Amelia; at the same time strictly charging her not to acquaint her mistress with her having received any such orders.
A servant of any acuteness would have formed strange conjectures from such an injunction; but this poor girl was of perfect simplicity; so great, indeed, was her simplicity, that, had not Amelia been void of all suspicion of her husband, the maid would have soon after betrayed her master.
One afternoon, while they were drinking tea, little Betty, so was the maid called, came into the room, and, calling her master forth, delivered him a card which was directed to Amelia. Booth, having read the card, on his return into the room chid the girl for calling him, saying “If you can read, child, you must see it was directed to your mistress.” To this the girl answered, pertly enough, “I am sure, sir, you ordered me to bring every letter first to you.” This hint, with many women, would have been sufficient to have blown up the whole affair; but Amelia, who heard what the girl said, through the medium of love and confidence, saw the matter in a much better light than it deserved, and, looking tenderly on her husband, said, “Indeed, my love, I must blame you for a conduct which, perhaps, I ought rather to praise, as it proceeds only from the extreme tenderness of your affection. But why will you endeavour to keep any secrets from me? believe me, for my own sake, you ought not; for, as you cannot hide the consequences, you make me always suspect ten times worse than the reality. While I have you and my children well before my eyes, I am capable of facing any news which can arrive; for what ill news can come (unless, indeed, it concerns my little babe in the country) which doth not relate to the badness of our circumstances? and those, I thank Heaven, we have now a fair prospect of retrieving. Besides, dear Billy, though my understanding be much inferior to yours, I have sometimes had the happiness of luckily hitting on some argument which hath afforded you comfort. This, you know, my dear, was the case with regard to Colonel James, whom I persuaded you to think you had mistaken, and you see the event proved me in the right.” So happily, both for herself and Mr. Booth, did the excellence of this good woman’s disposition deceive her, and force her to see everything in the most advantageous light to her husband.
The card, being now inspected, was found to contain the compliments of Mrs. James to Mrs. Booth, with an account of her being arrived in town, and having brought with her a very great cold. Amelia was overjoyed at the news of her arrival, and having drest herself in the utmost hurry, left her children to the care of her husband, and ran away to pay her respects to her friend, whom she loved with a most sincere affection. But how was she disappointed when, eager with the utmost impatience, and exulting with the thoughts of presently seeing her beloved friend, she was answered at the door that the lady was not at home! nor could she, upon telling her name, obtain any admission. This, considering the account she had received of the lady’s cold, greatly surprized her; and she returned home very much vexed at her disappointment.
Amelia, who had no suspicion that Mrs. James was really at home, and, as the phrase is, was denied, would have made a second visit the next morning, had she not been prevented by a cold which she herself now got, and which was attended with a slight fever. This confined her several days to her house, during which Booth officiated as her nurse, and never stirred from her.
In all this time she heard not a word from Mrs. James, which gave her some uneasiness, but more astonishment. The tenth day, when she was perfectly recovered, about nine in the evening, when she and her husband were just going to supper, she heard a most violent thundering at the door, and presently after a rustling of silk upon her staircase; at the same time a female voice cried out pretty loud, “Bless me! what, am I to climb up another pair of stairs?” upon which Amelia, who well knew the voice, presently ran to the door, and ushered in Mrs. James, most splendidly drest, who put on as formal a countenance, and made as formal a courtesie to her old friend, as if she had been her very distant acquaintance.
Poor Amelia, who was going to rush into her friend’s arms, was struck motionless by this behaviour; but recollecting her spirits, as she had an excellent presence of mind, she presently understood what the lady meant, and resolved to treat her in her own way. Down therefore the company sat, and silence prevailed for some time, during which Mrs. James surveyed the room with more attention than she would have bestowed on one much finer. At length the conversation began, in which the weather and the diversions of the town were well canvassed. Amelia, who was a woman of great humour, performed her part to admiration; so that a by-stander would have doubted, in every other article than dress, which of the two was the most accomplished fine lady.
After a visit of twenty minutes, during which not a word of any former occurrences was mentioned, nor indeed any subject of discourse started, except only those two above mentioned, Mrs. James rose from her chair and retired in the same formal manner in which she had approached. We will pursue her for the sake of the contrast during the rest of the evening. She went from Amelia directly to a rout, where she spent two hours in a croud of company, talked again and again over the diversions and news of the town, played two rubbers at whist, and then retired to her own apartment, where, having past another hour in undressing herself, she went to her own bed.
Booth and his wife, the moment their companion was gone, sat down to supper on a piece of cold meat, the remains of their dinner. After which, over a pint of wine, they entertained themselves for a while with the ridiculous behaviour of their visitant. But Amelia, declaring she rather saw her as the object of pity than anger, turned the discourse to pleasanter topics. The little actions of their children, the former scenes and future prospects of their life, furnished them with many pleasant ideas; and the contemplation of Amelia’s recovery threw Booth into raptures. At length they retired, happy in each other.
It is possible some readers may be no less surprized at the behaviour of Mrs. James than was Amelia herself, since they may have perhaps received so favourable an impression of that lady from the account given of her by Mr. Booth, that her present demeanour may seem unnatural and inconsistent with her former character. But they will be pleased to consider the great alteration in her circumstances, from a state of dependency on a brother, who was himself no better than a soldier of fortune, to that of being wife to a man of a very large estate and considerable rank in life. And what was her present behaviour more than that of a fine lady who considered form and show as essential ingredients of human happiness, and imagined all friendship to consist in ceremony, courtesies, messages, and visits? in which opinion, she hath the honour to think with much the larger part of one sex, and no small number of the other.
Containing a very extraordinary and pleasant incident.
The next evening Booth and Amelia went to walk in the park with their children. They were now on the verge of the parade, and Booth was describing to his wife the several buildings round it, when, on a sudden, Amelia, missing her little boy, cried out, “Where’s little Billy?” Upon which, Booth, casting his eyes over the grass, saw a foot-soldier shaking the boy at a little distance. At this sight, without making any answer to his wife, he leapt over the rails, and, running directly up to the fellow, who had a firelock with a bayonet fixed in his hand, he seized him by the collar and tript up his heels, and, at the same time, wrested his arms from him. A serjeant upon duty, seeing the affray at some distance, ran presently up, and, being told what had happened, gave the centinel a hearty curse, and told him he deserved to be hanged. A by-stander gave this information; for Booth was returned with his little boy to meet Amelia, who staggered towards him as fast as she could, all pale and breathless, and scarce able to support her tottering limbs. The serjeant now came up to Booth, to make an apology for the behaviour of the soldier, when, of a sudden, he turned almost as pale as Amelia herself. He stood silent whilst Booth was employed in comforting and recovering his wife; and then, addressing himself to him, said, “Bless me! lieutenant, could I imagine it had been your honour; and was it my little master that the rascal used so? — I am glad I did not know it, for I should certainly have run my halbert into him.”
Booth presently recognised his old faithful servant Atkinson, and gave him a hearty greeting, saying he was very glad to see him in his present situation. “Whatever I am,” answered the serjeant, “I shall always think I owe it to your honour.” Then, taking the little boy by the hand he cried, “What a vast fine young gentleman master is grown!” and, cursing the soldier’s inhumanity, swore heartily he would make him pay for it.
As Amelia was much disordered with her fright, she did not recollect her foster-brother till he was introduced to her by Booth; but she no sooner knew him than she bestowed a most obliging smile on him; and, calling him by the name of honest Joe, said she was heartily glad to see him in England. “See, my dear,” cries Booth, “what preferment your old friend is come to. You would scarce know him, I believe, in his present state of finery.” “I am very well pleased to see it,” answered Amelia, “and I wish him joy of being made an officer with all my heart.” In fact, from what Mr. Booth said, joined to the serjeant’s laced coat, she believed that he had obtained a commission. So weak and absurd is human vanity, that this mistake of Amelia’s possibly put poor Atkinson out of countenance, for he looked at this instant more silly than he had ever done in his life; and, making her a most respectful bow, muttered something about obligations, in a scarce articulate or intelligible manner.
The serjeant had, indeed, among many other qualities, that modesty which a Latin author honours by the name of ingenuous: nature had given him this, notwithstanding the meanness of his birth; and six years’ conversation in the army had not taken it away. To say the truth, he was a noble fellow; and Amelia, by supposing he had a commission in the guards, had been guilty of no affront to that honourable body.
Booth had a real affection for Atkinson, though, in fact, he knew not half his merit. He acquainted him with his lodgings, where he earnestly desired to see him.
Amelia, who was far from being recovered from the terrors into which the seeing her husband engaged with the soldier had thrown her, desired to go home: nor was she well able to walk without some assistance. While she supported herself, therefore, on her husband’s arm, she told Atkinson she should be obliged to him if he would take care of the children. He readily accepted the office; but, upon offering his hand to miss, she refused, and burst into tears. Upon which the tender mother resigned Booth to her children, and put herself under the serjeant’s protection; who conducted her safe home, though she often declared she feared she should drop down by the way; the fear of which so affected the serjeant (for, besides the honour which he himself had for the lady, he knew how tenderly his friend loved her) that he was unable to speak; and, had not his nerves been so strongly braced that nothing could shake them, he had enough in his mind to have set him a trembling equally with the lady.
When they arrived at the lodgings the mistress of the house opened the door, who, seeing Amelia’s condition, threw open the parlour and begged her to walk in, upon which she immediately flung herself into a chair, and all present thought she would have fainted away. However, she escaped that misery, and, having drank a glass of water with a little white wine mixed in it, she began in a little time to regain her complexion, and at length assured Booth that she was perfectly recovered, but declared she had never undergone so much, and earnestly begged him never to be so rash for the future. She then called her little boy and gently chid him, saying, “You must never do so more, Billy; you see what mischief you might have brought upon your father, and what you have made me suffer.” “La! mamma,” said the child, “what harm did I do? I did not know that people might not walk in the green fields in London. I am sure if I did a fault, the man punished me enough for it, for he pinched me almost through my slender arm.” He then bared his little arm, which was greatly discoloured by the injury it had received. Booth uttered a most dreadful execration at this sight, and the serjeant, who was now present, did the like.
Atkinson now returned to his guard and went directly to the officer to acquaint him with the soldier’s inhumanity, but he, who was about fifteen years of age, gave the serjeant a great curse and said the soldier had done very well, for that idle boys ought to be corrected. This, however, did not satisfy poor Atkinson, who, the next day, as soon as the guard was relieved, beat the fellow most unmercifully, and told him he would remember him as long as he stayed in the regiment.
Thus ended this trifling adventure, which some readers will, perhaps, be pleased at seeing related at full length. None, I think, can fail drawing one observation from it, namely, how capable the most insignificant accident is of disturbing human happiness, and of producing the most unexpected and dreadful events. A reflexion which may serve to many moral and religious uses.
This accident produced the first acquaintance between the mistress of the house and her lodgers; for hitherto they had scarce exchanged a word together. But the great concern which the good woman had shewn on Amelia’s account at this time, was not likely to pass unobserved or unthanked either by the husband or wife. Amelia, therefore, as soon as she was able to go up-stairs, invited Mrs. Ellison (for that was her name) to her apartment, and desired the favour of her to stay to supper. She readily complied, and they past a very agreeable evening together, in which the two women seemed to have conceived a most extraordinary liking to each other.
Though beauty in general doth not greatly recommend one woman to another, as it is too apt to create envy, yet, in cases where this passion doth not interfere, a fine woman is often a pleasing object even to some of her own sex, especially when her beauty is attended with a certain air of affability, as was that of Amelia in the highest degree. She was, indeed, a most charming woman; and I know not whether the little scar on her nose did not rather add to than diminish her beauty.
Mrs. Ellison, therefore, was as much charmed with the loveliness of her fair lodger as with all her other engaging qualities. She was, indeed, so taken with Amelia’s beauty, that she could not refrain from crying out in a kind of transport of admiration, “Upon my word, Captain Booth, you are the happiest man in the world! Your lady is so extremely handsome that one cannot look at her without pleasure.”
This good woman had herself none of these attractive charms to the eye. Her person was short and immoderately fat; her features were none of the most regular; and her complexion (if indeed she ever had a good one) had considerably suffered by time.
Her good humour and complaisance, however, were highly pleasing to Amelia. Nay, why should we conceal the secret satisfaction which that lady felt from the compliments paid to her person? since such of my readers as like her best will not be sorry to find that she was a woman.
Containing various matters.
A fortnight had now passed since Booth had seen or heard from the colonel, which did not a little surprize him, as they had parted so good friends, and as he had so cordially undertaken his cause concerning the memorial on which all his hopes depended.
The uneasiness which this gave him farther encreased on finding that his friend refused to see him; for he had paid the colonel a visit at nine in the morning, and was told he was not stirring; and at his return back an hour afterwards the servant said his master was gone out, of which Booth was certain of the falsehood; for he had, during that whole hour, walked backwards and forwards within sight of the colonel’s door, and must have seen him if he had gone out within that time.
The good colonel, however, did not long suffer his friend to continue in the deplorable state of anxiety; for, the very next morning, Booth received his memorial enclosed in a letter, acquainting him that Mr. James had mentioned his affair to the person he proposed, but that the great man had so many engagements on his hands that it was impossible for him to make any further promises at this time.
The cold and distant stile of this letter, and, indeed, the whole behaviour of James, so different from what it had been formerly, had something so mysterious in it, that it greatly puzzled and perplexed poor Booth; and it was so long before he was able to solve it, that the reader’s curiosity will, perhaps, be obliged to us for not leaving him so long in the dark as to this matter. The true reason, then, of the colonel’s conduct was this: his unbounded generosity, together with the unbounded extravagance and consequently the great necessity of Miss Matthews, had at length overcome the cruelty of that lady, with whom he likewise had luckily no rival. Above all, the desire of being revenged on Booth, with whom she was to the highest degree enraged, had, perhaps, contributed not a little to his success; for she had no sooner condescended to a familiarity with her new lover, and discovered that Captain James, of whom she had heard so much from Booth, was no other than the identical colonel, than she employed every art of which she was mistress to make an utter breach of friendship between these two. For this purpose she did not scruple to insinuate that the colonel was not at all obliged to the character given of him by his friend, and to the account of this latter she placed most of the cruelty which she had shewn to the former.
Had the colonel made a proper use of his reason, and fairly examined the probability of the fact, he could scarce have been imposed upon to believe a matter so inconsistent with all he knew of Booth, and in which that gentleman must have sinned against all the laws of honour without any visible temptation. But, in solemn fact, the colonel was so intoxicated with his love, that it was in the power of his mistress to have persuaded him of anything; besides, he had an interest in giving her credit, for he was not a little pleased with finding a reason for hating the man whom he could not help hating without any reason, at least, without any which he durst fairly assign even to himself. Henceforth, therefore, he abandoned all friendship for Booth, and was more inclined to put him out of the world than to endeavour any longer at supporting him in it.
Booth communicated this letter to his wife, who endeavoured, as usual, to the utmost of her power, to console him under one of the greatest afflictions which, I think, can befal a man, namely, the unkindness of a friend; but he had luckily at the same time the greatest blessing in his possession, the kindness of a faithful and beloved wife. A blessing, however, which, though it compensates most of the evils of life, rather serves to aggravate the misfortune of distressed circumstances, from the consideration of the share which she is to bear in them.
This afternoon Amelia received a second visit from Mrs. Ellison, who acquainted her that she had a present of a ticket for the oratorio, which would carry two persons into the gallery; and therefore begged the favour of her company thither.
Amelia, with many thanks, acknowledged the civility of Mrs. Ellison, but declined accepting her offer; upon which Booth very strenuously insisted on her going, and said to her, “My dear, if you knew the satisfaction I have in any of your pleasures, I am convinced you would not refuse the favour Mrs. Ellison is so kind to offer you; for, as you are a lover of music, you, who have never been at an oratorio, cannot conceive how you will be delighted.” “I well know your goodness, my dear,” answered Amelia, “but I cannot think of leaving my children without some person more proper to take care of them than this poor girl.” Mrs. Ellison removed this objection by offering her own servant, a very discreet matron, to attend them; but notwithstanding this, and all she could say, with the assistance of Booth, and of the children themselves, Amelia still persisted in her refusal; and the mistress of the house, who knew how far good breeding allows persons to be pressing on these occasions, took her leave.
She was no sooner departed than Amelia, looking tenderly on her husband, said, “How can you, my dear creature, think that music hath any charms for me at this time? or, indeed, do you believe that I am capable of any sensation worthy the name of pleasure when neither you nor my children are present or bear any part of it?”
An officer of the regiment to which Booth had formerly belonged, hearing from Atkinson where he lodged, now came to pay him a visit. He told him that several of their old acquaintance were to meet the next Wednesday at a tavern, and very strongly pressed him to be one of the company. Booth was, in truth, what is called a hearty fellow, and loved now and then to take a chearful glass with his friends; but he excused himself at this time. His friend declared he would take no denial, and he growing very importunate, Amelia at length seconded him. Upon this Booth answered, “Well, my dear, since you desire me, I will comply, but on one condition, that you go at the same time to the oratorio.” Amelia thought this request reasonable enough, and gave her consent; of which Mrs. Ellison presently received the news, and with great satisfaction.
It may perhaps be asked why Booth could go to the tavern, and not to the oratorio with his wife? In truth, then, the tavern was within hallowed ground, that is to say, in the verge of the court; for, of five officers that were to meet there, three, besides Booth, were confined to that air which hath been always found extremely wholesome to a broken military constitution. And here, if the good reader will pardon the pun, he will scarce be offended at the observation; since, how is it possible that, without running in debt, any person should maintain the dress and appearance of a gentleman whose income is not half so good as that of a porter? It is true that this allowance, small as it is, is a great expense to the public; but, if several more unnecessary charges were spared, the public might, perhaps, bear a little encrease of this without much feeling it. They would not, I am sure, have equal reason to complain at contributing to the maintenance of a sett of brave fellows, who, at the hazard of their health, their limbs, and their lives, have maintained the safety and honour of their country, as when they find themselves taxed to the support of a sett of drones, who have not the least merit or claim to their favour, and who, without contributing in any manner to the good of the hive, live luxuriously on the labours of the industrious bee.
In which Amelia, with her friend, goes to the oratorio.
Nothing happened between the Monday and the Wednesday worthy a place in this history. Upon the evening of the latter the two ladies went to the oratorio, and were there time enough to get a first row in the gallery. Indeed, there was only one person in the house when they came; for Amelia’s inclinations, when she gave a loose to them, were pretty eager for this diversion, she being a great lover of music, and particularly of Mr. Handel’s compositions. Mrs. Ellison was, I suppose, a great lover likewise of music, for she was the more impatient of the two; which was rather the more extraordinary; as these entertainments were not such novelties to her as they were to poor Amelia.
Though our ladies arrived full two hours before they saw the back of Mr. Handel, yet this time of expectation did not hang extremely heavy on their hands; for, besides their own chat, they had the company of the gentleman whom they found at their first arrival in the gallery, and who, though plainly, or rather roughly dressed, very luckily for the women, happened to be not only well-bred, but a person of very lively conversation. The gentleman, on his part, seemed highly charmed with Amelia, and in fact was so, for, though he restrained himself entirely within the rules of good breeding, yet was he in the highest degree officious to catch at every opportunity of shewing his respect, and doing her little services. He procured her a book and wax-candle, and held the candle for her himself during the whole entertainment.
At the end of the oratorio he declared he would not leave the ladies till he had seen them safe into their chairs or coach; and at the same time very earnestly entreated that he might have the honour of waiting on them. Upon which Mrs. Ellison, who was a very good-humoured woman, answered, “Ay, sure, sir, if you please; you have been very obliging to us; and a dish of tea shall be at your service at any time;” and then told him where she lived.
The ladies were no sooner seated in their hackney coach than Mrs. Ellison burst into a loud laughter, and cried, “I’ll be hanged, madam, if you have not made a conquest to-night; and what is very pleasant, I believe the poor gentleman takes you for a single lady.” “Nay,” answered Amelia very gravely, “I protest I began to think at last he was rather too particular, though he did not venture at a word that I could be offended at; but, if you fancy any such thing, I am sorry you invited him to drink tea,” “Why so?” replied Mrs. Ellison. “Are you angry with a man for liking you? if you are, you will be angry with almost every man that sees you. If I was a man myself, I declare I should be in the number of your admirers. Poor gentleman, I pity him heartily; he little knows that you have not a heart to dispose of. For my own part, I should not be surprized at seeing a serious proposal of marriage: for I am convinced he is a man of fortune, not only by the politeness of his address, but by the fineness of his linen, and that valuable diamond ring on his finger. But you will see more of him when he comes to tea.” “Indeed I shall not,” answered Amelia, “though I believe you only rally me; I hope you have a better opinion of me than to think I would go willingly into the company of a man who had an improper liking for me.” Mrs. Ellison, who was one of the gayest women in the world, repeated the words, improper liking, with a laugh; and cried, “My dear Mrs. Booth, believe me, you are too handsome and too good-humoured for a prude. How can you affect being offended at what I am convinced is the greatest pleasure of womankind, and chiefly, I believe, of us virtuous women? for, I assure you, notwithstanding my gaiety, I am as virtuous as any prude in Europe.” “Far be it from me, madam,” said Amelia, “to suspect the contrary of abundance of women who indulge themselves in much greater freedoms than I should take, or have any pleasure in taking; for I solemnly protest, if I know my own heart, the liking of all men, but of one, is a matter quite indifferent to me, or rather would be highly disagreeable.”
This discourse brought them home, where Amelia, finding her children asleep, and her husband not returned, invited her companion to partake of her homely fare, and down they sat to supper together. The clock struck twelve; and, no news being arrived of Booth, Mrs. Ellison began to express some astonishment at his stay, whence she launched into a general reflexion on husbands, and soon passed to some particular invectives on her own. “Ah, my dear madam,” says she, “I know the present state of your mind, by what I have myself often felt formerly. I am no stranger to the melancholy tone of a midnight clock. It was my misfortune to drag on a heavy chain above fifteen years with a sottish yoke-fellow. But how can I wonder at my fate, since I see even your superior charms cannot confine a husband from the bewitching pleasures of a bottle?” “Indeed, madam,” says Amelia,” I have no reason to complain; Mr. Booth is one of the soberest of men; but now and then to spend a late hour with his friend is, I think, highly excusable.”” O, no doubt! “cries Mrs. Ellison, “if he can excuse himself; but if I was a man — ” Here Booth came in and interrupted the discourse. Amelia’s eyes flashed with joy the moment he appeared; and he discovered no less pleasure in seeing her. His spirits were indeed a little elevated with wine, so as to heighten his good humour, without in the least disordering his understanding, and made him such delightful company, that, though it was past one in the morning, neither his wife nor Mrs. Ellison thought of their beds during a whole hour.
Early the next morning the serjeant came to Mr. Booth’s lodgings, and with a melancholy countenance acquainted him that he had been the night before at an alehouse, where he heard one Mr. Murphy, an attorney, declare that he would get a warrant backed against one Captain Booth at the next board of greencloth. “I hope, sir,” said he, “your honour will pardon me, but, by what he said, I was afraid he meant your honour; and therefore I thought it my duty to tell you; for I knew the same thing happen to a gentleman here the other day.”
Booth gave Mr. Atkinson many thanks for his information. “I doubt not,” said he, “but I am the person meant; for it would be foolish in me to deny that I am liable to apprehensions of that sort.” “I hope, sir,” said the serjeant, “your honour will soon have reason to fear no man living; but in the mean time, if any accident should happen, my bail is at your service as far as it will go; and I am a housekeeper, and can swear myself worth one hundred pounds.” Which hearty and friendly declaration received all those acknowledgments from Booth which it really deserved.
The poor gentleman was greatly alarmed at the news; but he was altogether as much surprized at Murphy’s being the attorney employed against him, as all his debts, except only to Captain James, arose in the country, where he did not know that Mr. Murphy had any acquaintance. However, he made no doubt that he was the person intended, and resolved to remain a close prisoner in his own lodgings, till he saw the event of a proposal which had been made him the evening before at the tavern, where an honest gentleman, who had a post under the government, and who was one of the company, had promised to serve him with the secretary at war, telling him that he made no doubt of procuring him whole pay in a regiment abroad, which in his present circumstances was very highly worth his acceptance, when, indeed, that and a gaol seemed to be the only alternatives that offered themselves to his choice.
Mr. Booth and his lady spent that afternoon with Mrs. Ellison — an incident which we should scarce have mentioned, had it not been that Amelia gave, on this occasion, an instance of that prudence which should never be off its guard in married women of delicacy; for, before she would consent to drink tea with Mrs. Ellison, she made conditions that the gentleman who had met them at the oratorio should not be let in. Indeed, this circumspection proved unnecessary in the present instance, for no such visitor ever came; a circumstance which gave great content to Amelia; for that lady had been a little uneasy at the raillery of Mrs. Ellison, and had upon reflexion magnified every little compliment made her, and every little civility shewn her by the unknown gentleman, far beyond the truth. These imaginations now all subsided again; and she imputed all that Mrs. Ellison had said either to raillery or mistake.
A young lady made a fourth with them at whist, and likewise stayed the whole evening. Her name was Bennet. She was about the age of five-and-twenty; but sickness had given her an older look, and had a good deal diminished her beauty; of which, young as she was, she plainly appeared to have only the remains in her present possession. She was in one particular the very reverse of Mrs. Ellison, being altogether as remarkably grave as the other was gay. This gravity was not, however, attended with any sourness of temper; on the contrary, she had much sweetness in her countenance, and was perfectly well bred. In short, Amelia imputed her grave deportment to her ill health, and began to entertain a compassion for her, which in good minds, that is to say, in minds capable of compassion, is certain to introduce some little degree of love or friendship.
Amelia was in short so pleased with the conversation of this lady, that, though a woman of no impertinent curiosity, she could not help taking the first opportunity of enquiring who she was. Mrs. Ellison said that she was an unhappy lady, who had married a young clergyman for love, who, dying of a consumption, had left her a widow in very indifferent circumstances. This account made Amelia still pity her more, and consequently added to the liking which she had already conceived for her. Amelia, therefore, desired Mrs. Ellison to bring her acquainted with Mrs. Bennet, and said she would go any day with her to make that lady a visit. “There need be no ceremony,” cried Mrs. Ellison; “she is a woman of no form; and, as I saw plainly she was extremely pleased with Mrs. Booth, I am convinced I can bring her to drink tea with you any afternoon you please.”
The two next days Booth continued at home, highly to the satisfaction of his Amelia, who really knew no happiness out of his company, nor scarce any misery in it. She had, indeed, at all times so much of his company, when in his power, that she had no occasion to assign any particular reason for his staying with her, and consequently it could give her no cause of suspicion. The Saturday, one of her children was a little disordered with a feverish complaint which confined her to her room, and prevented her drinking tea in the afternoon with her husband in Mrs. Ellison’s apartment, where a noble lord, a cousin of Mrs. Ellison’s, happened to be present; for, though that lady was reduced in her circumstances and obliged to let out part of her house in lodgings, she was born of a good family and had some considerable relations.
His lordship was not himself in any office of state, but his fortune gave him great authority with those who were. Mrs. Ellison, therefore, very bluntly took an opportunity of recommending Booth to his consideration. She took the first hint from my lord’s calling the gentleman captain; to which she answered, “Ay, I wish your lordship would make him so. It would be an act of justice, and I know it is in your power to do much greater things.” She then mentioned Booth’s services, and the wounds he had received at the siege, of which she had heard a faithful account from Amelia. Booth blushed, and was as silent as a young virgin at the hearing her own praises. His lordship answered, “Cousin Ellison, you know you may command my interest; nay, I shall have a pleasure in serving one of Mr. Booth’s character: for my part, I think merit in all capacities ought to be encouraged, but I know the ministry are greatly pestered with solicitations at this time. However, Mr. Booth may be assured I will take the first opportunity; and in the mean time, I shall be glad of seeing him any morning he pleases.” For all these declarations Booth was not wanting in acknowledgments to the generous peer any more than he was in secret gratitude to the lady who had shewn so friendly and uncommon a zeal in his favour.
The reader, when he knows the character of this nobleman, may, perhaps, conclude that his seeing Booth alone was a lucky circumstance, for he was so passionate an admirer of women, that he could scarce have escaped the attraction of Amelia’s beauty. And few men, as I have observed, have such disinterested generosity as to serve a husband the better because they are in love with his wife, unless she will condescend to pay a price beyond the reach of a virtuous woman.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:08