Part 2 out of 4
absolutely necessary, and that immediately too: flatter not yourselves
that fire will not scorch as well as warm, and the longer we stay
within its reach the more we shall burn. The admiration of a beautiful
woman, though the wife of our dearest friend, may at first perhaps be
innocent, but let us not flatter ourselves it will always remain so;
desire is sure to succeed; and wishes, hopes, designs, with a long
train of mischiefs, tread close at our heels. In affairs of this kind
we may most properly apply the well-known remark of _nemo repente
fuit turpissimus._ It fares, indeed, with us on this occasion as
with the unwary traveller in some parts of Arabia the desert, whom the
treacherous sands imperceptibly betray till he is overwhelmed and
lost. In both cases the only safety is by withdrawing our feet the
very first moment we perceive them sliding.
This digression may appear impertinent to some readers; we could not,
however, avoid the opportunity of offering the above hints; since of
all passions there is none against which we should so strongly fortify
ourselves as this, which is generally called love; for no other lays
before us, especially in the tumultuous days of youth, such sweet,
such strong and almost irresistible temptations; none hath produced in
private life such fatal and lamentable tragedies; and what is worst of
all, there is none to whose poison and infatuation the best of minds
are so liable. Ambition scarce ever produces any evil but when it
reigns in cruel and savage bosoms; and avarice seldom flourishes at
all but in the basest and poorest soil. Love, on the contrary, sprouts
usually up in the richest and noblest minds; but there, unless nicely
watched, pruned, and cultivated, and carefully kept clear of those
vicious weeds which are too apt to surround it, it branches forth into
wildness and disorder, produces nothing desirable, but choaks up and
kills whatever is good and noble in the mind where it so abounds. In
short, to drop the allegory, not only tenderness and good nature, but
bravery, generosity, and every virtue are often made the instruments
of effecting the most atrocious purposes of this all-subduing tyrant.
_Which will not appear, we presume, unnatural to all married
If the table of poor Booth afforded but an indifferent repast to the
colonel's hunger, here was most excellent entertainment of a much
higher kind. The colonel began now to wonder within himself at his not
having before discovered such incomparable beauty and excellence. This
wonder was indeed so natural that, lest it should arise likewise in
the reader, we thought proper to give the solution of it in the
During the first two hours the colonel scarce ever had his eyes off
from Amelia; for he was taken by surprize, and his heart was gone
before he suspected himself to be in any danger. His mind, however, no
sooner suggested a certain secret to him than it suggested some degree
of prudence to him at the same time; and the knowledge that he had
thoughts to conceal, and the care of concealing them, had birth at one
and the same instant. During the residue of the day, therefore, he
grew more circumspect, and contented himself with now and then
stealing a look by chance, especially as the more than ordinary
gravity of Booth made him fear that his former behaviour had betrayed
to Booth's observation the great and sudden liking he had conceived
for his wife, even before he had observed it in himself.
Amelia continued the whole day in the highest spirits and highest good
humour imaginable, never once remarking that appearance of discontent
in her husband of which the colonel had taken notice; so much more
quick-sighted, as we have somewhere else hinted, is guilt than
innocence. Whether Booth had in reality made any such observations on
the colonel's behaviour as he had suspected, we will not undertake to
determine; yet so far may be material to say, as we can with
sufficient certainty, that the change in Booth's behaviour that day,
from what was usual with him, was remarkable enough. None of his
former vivacity appeared in his conversation; and his countenance was
altered from being the picture of sweetness and good humour, not
indeed to sourness or moroseness, but to gravity and melancholy.
Though the colonel's suspicion had the effect which we have mentioned
on his behaviour, yet it could not persuade him to depart. In short,
he sat in his chair as if confined to it by enchantment, stealing
looks now and then, and humouring his growing passion, without having
command enough over his limbs to carry him out of the room, till
decency at last forced him to put an end to his preposterous visit.
When the husband and wife were left alone together, the latter resumed
the subject of her children, and gave Booth a particular narrative of
all that had passed at his lordship's, which he, though something had
certainly disconcerted him, affected to receive with all the pleasure
he could; and this affectation, however aukwardly he acted his part,
passed very well on Amelia; for she could not well conceive a
displeasure of which she had not the least hint of any cause, and
indeed at a time when, from his reconciliation with James, she
imagined her husband to be entirely and perfectly happy.
The greatest part of that night Booth past awake; and, if during the
residue he might be said to sleep, he could scarce be said to enjoy
repose; his eyes were no sooner closed, that he was pursued and
haunted by the most frightful and terrifying dreams, which threw him
into so restless a condition, that he soon disturbed his Amelia, and
greatly alarmed her with apprehensions that he had been seized by some
dreadful disease, though he had not the least symptoms of a fever by
any extraordinary heat, or any other indication, but was rather colder
As Booth assured his wife that he was very well, but found no
inclination to sleep, she likewise bid adieu to her slumbers, and
attempted to entertain him with her conversation. Upon which his
lordship occurred as the first topic; and she repeated to him all the
stories which she had heard from Mrs. Ellison, of the peer's goodness
to his sister and his nephew and niece. "It is impossible, my dear,"
says she, "to describe their fondness for their uncle, which is to me
an incontestible sign of a parent's goodness." In this manner she ran
on for several minutes, concluding at last, that it was pity so very
few had such generous minds joined to immense fortunes.
Booth, instead of making a direct answer to what Amelia had said,
cried coldly, "But do you think, my dear, it was right to accept all
those expensive toys which the children brought home? And I ask you
again, what return we are to make for these obligations?"
"Indeed, my dear," cries Amelia, "you see this matter in too serious a
light. Though I am the last person in the world who would lessen his
lordship's goodness (indeed I shall always think we are both
infinitely obliged to him), yet sure you must allow the expense to be
a mere trifle to such a vast fortune. As for return, his own
benevolence, in the satisfaction it receives, more than repays itself,
and I am convinced he expects no other."
"Very well, my dear," cries Booth, "you shall have it your way; I must
confess I never yet found any reason to blame your discernment; and
perhaps I have been in the wrong to give myself so much uneasiness on
"Uneasiness, child!" said Amelia eagerly; "Good Heavens! hath this
made you uneasy?"
"I do own it hath," answered Booth, "and it hath been the only cause
of breaking my repose."
"Why then I wish," cries Amelia, "all the things had been at the devil
before ever the children had seen them; and, whatever I may think
myself, I promise you they shall never more accept the value of a
farthing:--if upon this occasion I have been the cause of your
uneasiness, you will do me the justice to believe that I was totally
At those words Booth caught her in his arms, and with the tenderest
embrace, emphatically repeating the word innocent, cried, "Heaven
forbid I should think otherwise! Oh, thou art the best of creatures
that ever blessed a man!"
"Well, but," said she, smiling, "do confess, my dear, the truth; I
promise you I won't blame you nor disesteem you for it; but is not
pride really at the bottom of this fear of an obligation?"
"Perhaps it may," answered he; "or, if you will, you may call it fear.
I own I am afraid of obligations, as the worst kind of debts; for I
have generally observed those who confer them expect to be repaid ten
Here ended all that is material of their discourse; and a little time
afterwards, they both fell fast asleep in one another's arms; from
which time Booth had no more restlessness, nor any further
perturbation in his dreams.
Their repose, however, had been so much disturbed in the former part
of the night, that, as it was very late before they enjoyed that sweet
sleep I have just mentioned, they lay abed the next day till noon,
when they both rose with the utmost chearfulness; and, while Amelia
bestirred herself in the affairs of her family, Booth went to visit
the wounded colonel.
He found that gentleman still proceeding very fast in his recovery,
with which he was more pleased than he had reason to be with his
reception; for the colonel received him very coldly indeed, and, when
Booth told him he had received perfect satisfaction from his brother,
Bath erected his head and answered with a sneer, "Very well, sir, if
you think these matters can be so made up, d--n me if it is any
business of mine. My dignity hath not been injured."
"No one, I believe," cries Booth, "dare injure it."
"You believe so!" said the colonel: "I think, sir, you might be
assured of it; but this, at least, you may be assured of, that if any
man did, I would tumble him down the precipice of hell, d--n me, that
you may be assured of."
As Booth found the colonel in this disposition, he had no great
inclination to lengthen out his visit, nor did the colonel himself
seem to desire it: so he soon returned back to his Amelia, whom he
found performing the office of a cook, with as much pleasure as a fine
lady generally enjoys in dressing herself out for a ball.
_In which the history looks a little backwards._
Before we proceed farther in our history we shall recount a short
scene to our reader which passed between Amelia and Mrs. Ellison
whilst Booth was on his visit to Colonel Bath. We have already
observed that Amelia had conceived an extraordinary affection for Mrs.
Bennet, which had still encreased every time she saw her; she thought
she discovered something wonderfully good and gentle in her
countenance and disposition, and was very desirous of knowing her
She had a very short interview with that lady this morning in Mrs.
Ellison's apartment. As soon, therefore, as Mrs. Bennet was gone,
Amelia acquainted Mrs. Ellison with the good opinion she had conceived
of her friend, and likewise with her curiosity to know her story: "For
there must be something uncommonly good," said she, "in one who can so
truly mourn for a husband above three years after his death."
"O!" cries Mrs. Ellison, "to be sure the world must allow her to have
been one of the best of wives. And, indeed, upon the whole, she is a
good sort of woman; and what I like her the best for is a strong
resemblance that she bears to yourself in the form of her person, and
still more in her voice. But for my own part, I know nothing
remarkable in her fortune, unless what I have told you, that she was
the daughter of a clergyman, had little or no fortune, and married a
poor parson for love, who left her in the utmost distress. If you
please, I will shew you a letter which she writ to me at that time,
though I insist upon your promise never to mention it to her; indeed,
you will be the first person I ever shewed it to." She then opened her
scrutore, and, taking out the letter, delivered it to Amelia, saying,
"There, madam, is, I believe, as fine a picture of distress as can
well be drawn."
"As I have no other friend on earth but yourself, I hope you will
pardon my writing to you at this season; though I do not know that you
can relieve my distresses, or, if you can, have I any pretence to
expect that you should. My poor dear, O Heavens--my---lies dead in the
house; and, after I had procured sufficient to bury him, a set of
ruffians have entered my house, seized all I have, have seized his
dear, dear corpse, and threaten to deny it burial. For Heaven's sake,
send me, at least, some advice; little Tommy stands now by me crying
for bread, which I have not to give him. I can say no more than that I
Your most distressed humble servant,
Amelia read the letter over twice, and then returning it with tears in
her eyes, asked how the poor creature could possibly get through such
"You may depend upon it, madam," said Mrs. Ellison, "the moment I read
this account I posted away immediately to the lady. As to the seizing
the body, that I found was a mere bugbear; but all the rest was
literally true. I sent immediately for the same gentleman that I
recommended to Mr. Booth, left the care of burying the corpse to him,
and brought my friend and her little boy immediately away to my own
house, where she remained some months in the most miserable condition.
I then prevailed with her to retire into the country, and procured her
a lodging with a friend at St Edmundsbury, the air and gaiety of which
place by degrees recovered her; and she returned in about a twelve-
month to town, as well, I think, as she is at present."
"I am almost afraid to ask," cries Amelia, "and yet I long methinks to
know what is become of the poor little boy."
"He hath been dead," said Mrs. Ellison, "a little more than half a
year; and the mother lamented him at first almost as much as she did
her husband, but I found it indeed rather an easier matter to comfort
her, though I sat up with her near a fortnight upon the latter
"You are a good creature," said Amelia, "and I love you dearly."
"Alas! madam," cries she, "what could I have done if it had not been
for the goodness of that best of men, my noble cousin! His lordship no
sooner heard of the widow's distress from me than he immediately
settled one hundred and fifty pounds a year upon her during her life."
"Well! how noble, how generous was that!" said Amelia. "I declare I
begin to love your cousin, Mrs. Ellison."
"And I declare if you do," answered she, "there is no love lost, I
verily believe; if you had heard what I heard him say yesterday behind
"Why, what did he say, Mrs. Ellison?" cries Amelia.
"He said," answered the other, "that you was the finest woman his eyes
ever beheld.--Ah! it is in vain to wish, and yet I cannot help wishing
too.--O, Mrs. Booth! if you had been a single woman, I firmly believe
I could have made you the happiest in the world. And I sincerely think
I never saw a woman who deserved it more."
"I am obliged to you, madam," cries Amelia, "for your good opinion;
but I really look on myself already as the happiest woman in the
world. Our circumstances, it is true, might have been a little more
fortunate; but O, my dear Mrs. Ellison! what fortune can be put in the
balance with such a husband as mine?"
"I am afraid, dear madam," answered Mrs. Ellison, "you would not hold
the scale fairly.--I acknowledge, indeed, Mr. Booth is a very pretty
gentleman; Heaven forbid I should endeavour to lessen him in your
opinion; yet, if I was to be brought to confession, I could not help
saying I see where the superiority lies, and that the men have more
reason to envy Mr. Booth than the women have to envy his lady."
"Nay, I will not bear this," replied Amelia. "You will forfeit all my
love if you have the least disrespectful opinion of my husband. You do
not know him, Mrs. Ellison; he is the best, the kindest, the worthiest
of all his sex. I have observed, indeed, once or twice before, that
you have taken some dislike to him. I cannot conceive for what reason.
If he hath said or done anything to disoblige you, I am sure I can
justly acquit him of design. His extreme vivacity makes him sometimes
a little too heedless; but, I am convinced, a more innocent heart, or
one more void of offence, was never in a human bosom."
"Nay, if you grow serious," cries Mrs. Ellison, "I have done. How is
it possible you should suspect I had taken any dislike to a man to
whom I have always shewn so perfect a regard; but to say I think him,
or almost any other man in the world, worthy of yourself, is not
within my power with truth. And since you force the confession from
me, I declare, I think such beauty, such sense, and such goodness
united, might aspire without vanity to the arms of any monarch in
"Alas! my dear Mrs. Ellison," answered Amelia, "do you think happiness
and a crown so closely united? how many miserable women have lain in
the arms of kings?--Indeed, Mrs. Ellison, if I had all the merit you
compliment me with, I should think it all fully rewarded with such a
man as, I thank Heaven, hath fallen to my lot; nor would I, upon my
soul, exchange that lot with any queen in the universe."
"Well, there are enow of our sex," said Mrs. Ellison, "to keep you in
countenance; but I shall never forget the beginning of a song of Mr.
Congreve's, that my husband was so fond of that he was always singing
Love's but a frailty of the mind,
When 'tis not with ambition join'd.
Love without interest makes but an unsavoury dish, in my opinion."
"And pray how long hath this been your opinion?" said Amelia, smiling.
"Ever since I was born," answered Mrs. Ellison; "at least, ever since
I can remember."
"And have you never," said Amelia, "deviated from this generous way of
"Never once," answered the other, "in the whole course of my life."
"O, Mrs. Ellison! Mrs. Ellison!" cries Amelia; "why do we ever blame
those who are disingenuous in confessing their faults, when we are so
often ashamed to own ourselves in the right? Some women now, in my
situation, would be angry that you had not made confidantes of them;
but I never desire to know more of the secrets of others than they are
pleased to intrust me with. You must believe, however, that I should
not have given you these hints of my knowing all if I had disapproved
your choice. On the contrary, I assure you I highly approve it. The
gentility he wants, it will be easily in your power to procure for
him; and as for his good qualities, I will myself be bound for them;
and I make not the least doubt, as you have owned to me yourself that
you have placed your affections on him, you will be one of the
happiest women in the world."
"Upon my honour," cries Mrs. Ellison very gravely, "I do not
understand one word of what you mean."
"Upon my honour, you astonish me," said Amelia; "but I have done."
"Nay then," said the other, "I insist upon knowing what you mean."
"Why, what can I mean," answered Amelia, "but your marriage with
"With serjeant Atkinson!" cries Mrs. Ellison eagerly, "my marriage
with a serjeant!"
"Well, with Mr. Atkinson, then, Captain Atkinson, if you please; for
so I hope to see him."
"And have you really no better opinion of me," said Mrs. Ellison,
"than to imagine me capable of such condescension? What have I done,
dear Mrs. Booth, to deserve so low a place in your esteem? I find
indeed, as Solomon says, _Women ought to watch the door of their
lips._ How little did I imagine that a little harmless freedom in
discourse could persuade any one that I could entertain a serious
intention of disgracing my family! for of a very good family am I
come, I assure you, madam, though I now let lodgings. Few of my
lodgers, I believe, ever came of a better."
"If I have offended you, madam," said Amelia, "I am very sorry, and
ask your pardon; but, besides what I heard from yourself, Mr. Booth
"O yes!" answered Mrs. Ellison, "Mr. Booth, I know, is a very good
friend of mine. Indeed, I know you better than to think it could be
your own suspicion. I am very much obliged to Mr. Booth truly."
"Nay," cries Amelia, "the serjeant himself is in fault; for Mr. Booth,
I am positive, only repeated what he had from him."
"Impudent coxcomb!" cries Mrs. Ellison. "I shall know how to keep such
fellows at a proper distance for the future--I will tell you, dear
madam, all that happened. When I rose in the morning I found the
fellow waiting in the entry; and, as you had exprest some regard for
him as your foster-brother--nay, he is a very genteel fellow, that I
must own--I scolded my maid for not shewing him into my little back-
room; and I then asked him to walk into the parlour. Could I have
imagined he would have construed such little civility into an
"Nay, I will have justice done to my poor brother too," said Amelia.
"I myself have seen you give him much greater encouragement than
"Well, perhaps I have," said Mrs. Ellison. "I have been always too
unguarded in my speech, and can't answer for all I have said." She
then began to change her note, and, with an affected laugh, turned all
into ridicule; and soon afterwards the two ladies separated, both in
apparent good humour; and Amelia went about those domestic offices in
which Mr. Booth found her engaged at the end of the preceding chapter.
_Containing a very extraordinary incident._
In the afternoon Mr. Booth, with Amelia and her children, went to
refresh themselves in the Park. The conversation now turned on what
past in the morning with Mrs. Ellison, the latter part of the
dialogue, I mean, recorded in the last chapter. Amelia told her
husband that Mrs. Ellison so strongly denied all intentions to marry
the serjeant, that she had convinced her the poor fellow was under an
error, and had mistaken a little too much levity for serious
encouragement; and concluded by desiring Booth not to jest with her
any more on that subject.
Booth burst into a laugh at what his wife said. "My dear creature,"
said he, "how easily is thy honesty and simplicity to be imposed on!
how little dost thou guess at the art and falsehood of women! I knew a
young lady who, against her father's consent, was married to a brother
officer of mine; and, as I often used to walk with her (for I knew her
father intimately well), she would of her own accord take frequent
occasions to ridicule and vilify her husband (for so he was at the
time), and exprest great wonder and indignation at the report which
she allowed to prevail that she should condescend ever to look at such
a fellow with any other design than of laughing at and despising him.
The marriage afterwards became publicly owned, and the lady was
reputably brought to bed. Since which I have often seen her; nor hath
she ever appeared to be in the least ashamed of what she had formerly
said, though, indeed, I believe she hates me heartily for having heard
"But for what reason," cries Amelia, "should she deny a fact, when she
must be so certain of our discovering it, and that immediately?"
"I can't answer what end she may propose," said Booth. "Sometimes one
would be almost persuaded that there was a pleasure in lying itself.
But this I am certain, that I would believe the honest serjeant on his
bare word sooner than I would fifty Mrs. Ellisons on oath. I am
convinced he would not have said what he did to me without the
strongest encouragement; and, I think, after what we have been both
witnesses to, it requires no great confidence in his veracity to give
him an unlimited credit with regard to the lady's behaviour."
To this Amelia made no reply; and they discoursed of other matters
during the remainder of a very pleasant walk.
When they returned home Amelia was surprized to find an appearance of
disorder in her apartment. Several of the trinkets which his lordship
had given the children lay about the room; and a suit of her own
cloaths, which she had left in her drawers, was now displayed upon the
She immediately summoned her little girl up-stairs, who, as she
plainly perceived the moment she came up with a candle, had half cried
her eyes out; for, though the girl had opened the door to them, as it
was almost dark, she had not taken any notice of this phenomenon in
The girl now fell down upon her knees and cried, "For Heaven's sake,
madam, do not be angry with me. Indeed, I was left alone in the house;
and, hearing somebody knock at the door, I opened it--I am sure
thinking no harm. I did not know but it might have been you, or my
master, or Madam Ellison; and immediately as I did, the rogue burst in
and ran directly up-stairs, and what he hath robbed you of I cannot
tell; but I am sure I could not help it, for he was a great swinging
man with a pistol in each hand; and, if I had dared to call out, to be
sure he would have killed me. I am sure I was never in such a fright
in my born days, whereof I am hardly come to myself yet. I believe he
is somewhere about the house yet, for I never saw him go out."
Amelia discovered some little alarm at this narrative, but much less
than many other ladies would have shewn, for a fright is, I believe,
sometimes laid hold of as an opportunity of disclosing several charms
peculiar to that occasion. And which, as Mr. Addison says of certain
Shun the day, and lie conceal'd
In the smooth seasons and the calms of life.
Booth, having opened the window, and summoned in two chairmen to his
assistance, proceeded to search the house; but all to no purpose; the
thief was flown, though the poor girl, in her state of terror, had not
seen him escape.
But now a circumstance appeared which greatly surprized both Booth and
Amelia; indeed, I believe it will have the same effect on the reader;
and this was, that the thief had taken nothing with him. He had,
indeed, tumbled over all Booth's and Amelia's cloaths and the
children's toys, but had left all behind him.
Amelia was scarce more pleased than astonished at this discovery, and
re-examined the girl, assuring her of an absolute pardon if she
confessed the truth, but grievously threatening her if she was found
guilty of the least falsehood. "As for a thief, child," says she,
"that is certainly not true; you have had somebody with you to whom
you have been shewing the things; therefore tell me plainly who it
The girl protested in the solemnest manner that she knew not the
person; but as to some circumstances she began to vary a little from
her first account, particularly as to the pistols, concerning which,
being strictly examined by Booth, she at last cried--"To be sure, sir,
he must have had pistols about him." And instead of persisting in his
having rushed in upon her, she now confessed that he had asked at the
door for her master and mistress; and that at his desire she had shewn
him up-stairs, where he at first said he would stay till their return
home; "but, indeed," cried she, "I thought no harm, for he looked like
a gentleman-like sort of man. And, indeed, so I thought he was for a
good while, whereof he sat down and behaved himself very civilly, till
he saw some of master's and miss's things upon the chest of drawers;
whereof he cried, 'Hey-day! what's here?' and then he fell to tumbling
about the things like any mad. Then I thinks, thinks I to myself, to
be sure he is a highwayman, whereof I did not dare speak to him; for I
knew Madam Ellison and her maid was gone out, and what could such a
poor girl as I do against a great strong man? and besides, thinks I,
to be sure he hath got pistols about him, though I can't indeed, (that
I will not do for the world) take my Bible-oath that I saw any; yet to
be sure he would have soon pulled them out and shot me dead if I had
ventured to have said anything to offend him."
"I know not what to make of this," cries Booth. "The poor girl, I
verily believe, speaks to the best of her knowledge. A thief it could
not be, for he hath not taken the least thing; and it is plain he had
the girl's watch in his hand. If it had been a bailiff, surely he
would have staid till our return. I can conceive no other from the
girl's account than that it must have been some madman."
"O good sir!" said the girl, "now you mention it, if he was not a
thief, to be sure he must have been a madman: for indeed he looked,
and behaved himself too, very much like a madman; for, now I remember
it, he talked to himself and said many strange kind of words that I
did not understand. Indeed, he looked altogether as I have seen people
in Bedlam; besides, if he was not a madman, what good could it do him
to throw the things all about the room in such a manner? and he said
something too about my master just before he went down-stairs. I was
in such a fright I cannot remember particularly, but I am sure they
were very ill words; he said he would do for him--I am sure he said
that, and other wicked bad words too, if I could but think of them."
"Upon my word," said Booth, "this is the most probable conjecture; but
still I am puzzled to conceive who it should be, for I have no madman
to my knowledge of my acquaintance, and it seems, as the girl says, he
asked for me." He then turned to the child, and asked her if she was
certain of that circumstance.
The poor maid, after a little hesitation, answered, "Indeed, sir, I
cannot be very positive; for the fright he threw me into afterwards
drove everything almost out of my mind."
"Well, whatever he was," cries Amelia, "I am glad the consequence is
no worse; but let this be a warning to you, little Betty, and teach
you to take more care for the future. If ever you should be left alone
in the house again, be sure to let no persons in without first looking
out at the window and seeing who they are. I promised not to chide you
any more on this occasion, and I will keep my word; but it is very
plain you desired this person to walk up into our apartment, which was
very wrong in our absence."
Betty was going to answer, but Amelia would not let her, saying,
"Don't attempt to excuse yourself; for I mortally hate a liar, and can
forgive any fault sooner than falsehood."
The poor girl then submitted; and now Amelia, with her assistance,
began to replace all things in their order; and little Emily hugging
her watch with great fondness, declared she would never part with it
Thus ended this odd adventure, not entirely to the satisfaction of
Booth; for, besides his curiosity, which, when thoroughly roused, is a
very troublesome passion, he had, as is I believe usual with all
persons in his circumstances, several doubts and apprehensions of he
knew not what. Indeed, fear is never more uneasy than when it doth not
certainly know its object; for on such occasions the mind is ever
employed in raising a thousand bugbears and fantoms, much more
dreadful than any realities, and, like children when they tell tales
of hobgoblins, seems industrious in terrifying itself.
_Containing some matters not very unnatural._
Matters were scarce sooner reduced into order and decency than a
violent knocking was heard at the door, such indeed as would have
persuaded any one not accustomed to the sound that the madman was
returned in the highest spring-tide of his fury.
Instead, however, of so disagreeable an appearance, a very fine lady
presently came into the room, no other, indeed, than Mrs. James
herself; for she was resolved to shew Amelia, by the speedy return of
her visit, how unjust all her accusation had been of any failure in
the duties of friendship; she had, moreover, another reason to
accelerate this visit, and that was, to congratulate her friend on the
event of the duel between Colonel Bath and Mr. Booth.
The lady had so well profited by Mrs. Booth's remonstrance, that she
had now no more of that stiffness and formality which she had worn on
a former occasion. On the contrary, she now behaved with the utmost
freedom and good-humour, and made herself so very agreeable, that
Amelia was highly pleased and delighted with her company.
An incident happened during this visit, that may appear to some too
inconsiderable in itself to be recorded; and yet, as it certainly
produced a very strong consequence in the mind of Mr. Booth, we cannot
prevail on ourselves to pass it by.
Little Emily, who was present in the room while Mrs. James was there,
as she stood near that lady happened to be playing with her watch,
which she was so greatly overjoyed had escaped safe from the madman.
Mrs. James, who exprest great fondness for the child, desired to see
the watch, which she commended as the prettiest of the kind she had
Amelia caught eager hold of this opportunity to spread the praises of
her benefactor. She presently acquainted Mrs. James with the donor's
name, and ran on with great encomiums on his lordship's goodness, and
particularly on his generosity. To which Mrs. James answered, "O!
certainly, madam, his lordship hath universally the character of being
extremely generous-where he likes."
In uttering these words she laid a very strong emphasis on the three
last monosyllables, accompanying them at the same time with a very
sagacious look, a very significant leer, and a great flirt with her
The greatest genius the world hath ever produced observes, in one of
his most excellent plays, that
Trifles, light as air,
Are to the jealous confirmations strong
As proofs of holy writ.
That Mr. Booth began to be possessed by this worst of fiends, admits,
I think, no longer doubt; for at this speech of Mrs. James he
immediately turned pale, and, from a high degree of chearfulness, was
all on a sudden struck dumb, so that he spoke not another word till
Mrs. James left the room.
The moment that lady drove from the door Mrs. Ellison came up-stairs.
She entered the room with a laugh, and very plentifully rallied both
Booth and Amelia concerning the madman, of which she had received a
full account below-stairs; and at last asked Amelia if she could not
guess who it was; but, without receiving an answer, went on, saying,
"For my own part, I fancy it must be some lover of yours! some person
that hath seen you, and so is run mad with love. Indeed, I should not
wonder if all mankind were to do the same. La! Mr. Booth, what makes
you grave? why, you are as melancholy as if you had been robbed in
earnest. Upon my word, though, to be serious, it is a strange story,
and, as the girl tells it, I know not what to make of it. Perhaps it
might be some rogue that intended to rob the house, and his heart
failed him; yet even that would be very extraordinary. What, did you
lose nothing, madam?"
"Nothing at all," answered Amelia. "He did not even take the child's
"Well, captain," cries Mrs. Ellison, "I hope you will take more care
of the house to-morrow; for your lady and I shall leave you alone to
the care of it. Here, madam," said she, "here is a present from my
lord to us; here are two tickets for the masquerade at Ranelagh. You
will be so charmed with it! It is the sweetest of all diversions."
"May I be damned, madam," cries Booth, "if my wife shall go thither."
Mrs. Ellison stared at these words, and, indeed, so did Amelia; for
they were spoke with great vehemence. At length the former cried out
with an air of astonishment, "Not let your lady go to Ranelagh, sir?"
"No, madam," cries Booth, "I will not let my wife go to Ranelagh."
"You surprize me!" cries Mrs. Ellison. "Sure, you are not in earnest?"
"Indeed, madam," returned he, "I am seriously in earnest. And, what is
more, I am convinced she would of her own accord refuse to go."
"Now, madam," said Mrs. Ellison, "you are to answer for yourself: and
I will for your husband, that, if you have a desire to go, he will not
"I hope, madam," answered Amelia with great gravity, "I shall never
desire to go to any place contrary to Mr. Booth's inclinations."
"Did ever mortal hear the like?" said Mrs. Ellison; "you are enough to
spoil the best husband in the universe. Inclinations! what, is a woman
to be governed then by her husband's inclinations, though they are
never so unreasonable?"
"Pardon me, madam," said Amelia; "I will not suppose Mr. Booth's
inclinations ever can be unreasonable. I am very much obliged to you
for the offer you have made me; but I beg you will not mention it any
more; for, after what Mr. Booth hath declared, if Ranelagh was a
heaven upon earth, I would refuse to go to it."
"I thank you, my dear," cries Booth; "I do assure you, you oblige me
beyond my power of expression by what you say; but I will endeavour to
shew you, both my sensibility of such goodness, and my lasting
gratitude to it."
"And pray, sir," cries Mrs. Ellison, "what can be your objection to
your lady's going to a place which, I will venture to say, is as
reputable as any about town, and which is frequented by the best
"Pardon me, good Mrs. Ellison," said Booth: "as my wife is so good to
acquiesce without knowing my reasons, I am not, I think, obliged to
assign them to any other person."
"Well," cries Mrs. Ellison, "if I had been told this, I would not have
believed it. What, refuse your lady an innocent diversion, and that
too when you have not the pretence to say it would cost you a
"Why will you say any more on this subject, dear madam?" cries Amelia.
"All diversions are to me matters of such indifference, that the bare
inclinations of any one for whom I have the least value would at all
times turn the balance of mine. I am sure then, after what Mr. Booth
"My dear," cries he, taking her up hastily, "I sincerely ask your
pardon; I spoke inadvertently, and in a passion. I never once thought
of controuling you, nor ever would. Nay, I said in the same breath you
would not go; and, upon my honour, I meant nothing more."
"My dear," said she, "you have no need of making any apology. I am not
in the least offended, and am convinced you will never deny me what I
"Try him, try him, madam," cries Mrs. Ellison; "I will be judged by
all the women in town if it is possible for a wife to ask her husband
anything more reasonable. You can't conceive what a sweet, charming,
elegant, delicious place it is. Paradise itself can hardly be equal to
"I beg you will excuse me, madam," said Amelia; "nay, I entreat you
will ask me no more; for be assured I must and will refuse. Do let me
desire you to give the ticket to poor Mrs. Bennet. I believe it would
greatly oblige her."
"Pardon me, madam," said Mrs. Ellison; "if you will not accept of it,
I am not so distressed for want of company as to go to such a public
place with all sort of people neither. I am always very glad to see
Mrs. Bennet at my own house, because I look upon her as a very good
sort of woman; but I don't chuse to be seen with such people in public
Amelia exprest some little indignation at this last speech, which she
declared to be entirely beyond her comprehension; and soon after, Mrs.
Ellison, finding all her efforts to prevail on Amelia were
ineffectual, took her leave, giving Mr. Booth two or three sarcastical
words, and a much more sarcastical look, at her departure.
_A scene in which some ladies will possibly think Amelia's conduct
Booth and his wife being left alone, a solemn silence prevailed during
a few minutes. At last Amelia, who, though a good, was yet a human
creatures said to her husband, "Pray, my dear, do inform me what could
put you into so great a passion when Mrs. Ellison first offered me the
tickets for this masquerade?"
"I had rather you would not ask me," said Booth. "You have obliged me
greatly in your ready acquiescence with my desire, and you will add
greatly to the obligation by not enquiring the reason of it. This you
may depend upon, Amelia, that your good and happiness are the great
objects of all my wishes, and the end I propose in all my actions.
This view alone could tempt me to refuse you anything, or to conceal
anything from you."
"I will appeal to yourself," answered she, "whether this be not using
me too much like a child, and whether I can possibly help being a
little offended at it?"
"Not in the least," replied he; "I use you only with the tenderness of
a friend. I would only endeavour to conceal that from you which I
think would give you uneasiness if you knew. These are called the
pious frauds of friendship."
"I detest all fraud," says she; "and pious is too good an epithet to
be joined to so odious a word. You have often, you know, tried these
frauds with no better effect than to teize and torment me. You cannot
imagine, my dear, but that I must have a violent desire to know the
reason of words which I own I never expected to have heard. And the
more you have shown a reluctance to tell me, the more eagerly I have
longed to know. Nor can this be called a vain curiosity, since I seem
so much interested in this affair. If after all this, you still insist
on keeping the secret, I will convince you I am not ignorant of the
duty of a wife by my obedience; but I cannot help telling you at the
same time you will make me one of the most miserable of women."
"That is," cries he, "in other words, my dear Emily, to say, I will be
contented without the secret, but I am resolved to know it,
"Nay, if you say so," cries she, "I am convinced you will tell me.
Positively, dear Billy, I must and will know."
"Why, then, positively," says Booth, "I will tell you. And I think I
shall then shew you that, however well you may know the duty of a
wife, I am not always able to behave like a husband. In a word then,
my dear, the secret is no more than this; I am unwilling you should
receive any more presents from my lord."
"Mercy upon me!" cries she, with all the marks of astonishment; "what!
a masquerade ticket!"--
"Yes, my dear," cries he; "that is, perhaps, the very worst and most
dangerous of all. Few men make presents of those tickets to ladies
without intending to meet them at the place. And what do we know of
your companion? To be sincere with you, I have not liked her behaviour
for some time. What might be the consequence of going with such a
woman to such a place, to meet such a person, I tremble to think. And
now, my dear, I have told you my reason of refusing her offer with
some little vehemence, and I think I need explain myself no farther."
"You need not, indeed, sir," answered she. "Good Heavens! did I ever
expect to hear this? I can appeal to heaven, nay, I will appeal to
yourself, Mr. Booth, if I have ever done anything to deserve such a
suspicion. If ever any action of mine, nay, if ever any thought, had
stained the innocence of my soul, I could be contented."
"How cruelly do you mistake me!" said Booth. "What suspicion have I
"Can you ask it," answered she, "after what you have just now
"If I have declared any suspicion of you," replied he, "or if ever I
entertained a thought leading that way, may the worst of evils that
ever afflicted human nature attend me! I know the pure innocence of
that tender bosom, I do know it, my lovely angel, and adore it. The
snares which might be laid for that innocence were alone the cause of
my apprehension. I feared what a wicked and voluptuous man, resolved
to sacrifice everything to the gratification of a sensual appetite
with the most delicious repast, might attempt. If ever I injured the
unspotted whiteness of thy virtue in my imagination, may hell---"
"Do not terrify me," cries she, interrupting him, "with such
imprecations. O, Mr. Booth! Mr. Booth! you must well know that a
woman's virtue is always her sufficient guard. No husband, without
suspecting that, can suspect any danger from those snares you mention;
and why, if you are liable to take such things into your head, may not
your suspicions fall on me as well as on any other? for sure nothing
was ever more unjust, I will not say ungrateful, than the suspicions
which you have bestowed on his lordship. I do solemnly declare, in all
the times I have seen the poor man, he hath never once offered the
least forwardness. His behaviour hath been polite indeed, but rather
remarkably distant than otherwise. Particularly when we played at
cards together. I don't remember he spoke ten words to me all the
evening; and when I was at his house, though he shewed the greatest
fondness imaginable to the children, he took so little notice of me,
that a vain woman would have been very little pleased with him. And if
he gave them many presents, he never offered me one. The first,
indeed, which he ever offered me was that which you in that kind
manner forced me to refuse."
"All this may be only the effect of art," said Booth. "I am convinced
he doth, nay, I am convinced he must like you; and my good friend
James, who perfectly well knows the world, told me, that his
lordship's character was that of the most profuse in his pleasures
with women; nay, what said Mrs. James this very evening? 'His lordship
is extremely generous--where he likes.' I shall never forget the sneer
with which she spoke those last words."
"I am convinced they injure him," cries Amelia. "As for Mrs. James,
she was always given to be censorious; I remarked it in her long ago,
as her greatest fault. And for the colonel, I believe he may find
faults enow of this kind in his own bosom, without searching after
them among his neighbours. I am sure he hath the most impudent look of
all the men I know; and I solemnly declare, the very last time he was
here he put me out of countenance more than once."
"Colonel James," answered Booth, "may have his faults very probably. I
do not look upon him as a saint, nor do I believe he desires I should;
but what interest could he have in abusing this lord's character to
me? or why should I question his truth, when he assured me that my
lord had never done an act of beneficence in his life but for the sake
of some woman whom he lusted after?"
"Then I myself can confute him," replied Amelia: "for, besides his
services to you, which, for the future, I shall wish to forget, and
his kindness to my little babes, how inconsistent is the character
which James gives of him with his lordship's behaviour to his own
nephew and niece, whose extreme fondness of their uncle sufficiently
proclaims his goodness to them? I need not mention all that I have
heard from Mrs. Ellison, every word of which I believe; for I have
great reason to think, notwithstanding some little levity, which, to
give her her due, she sees and condemns in herself, she is a very good
sort of woman."
"Well, my dear," cries Booth, "I may have been deceived, and I
heartily hope I am so; but in cases of this nature it is always good
to be on the surest side; for, as Congreve says,
'The wise too jealous are: fools too secure.'"
Here Amelia burst into tears, upon which Booth immediately caught her
in his arms, and endeavoured to comfort her. Passion, however, for a
while obstructed her speech, and at last she cried, "O, Mr. Booth! can
I bear to hear the word jealousy from your mouth?"
"Why, my love," said Booth, "will you so fatally misunderstand my
meaning? how often shall I protest that it is not of you, but of him,
that I was jealous? If you could look into my breast, and there read
all the most secret thoughts of my heart, you would not see one faint
idea to your dishonour."
"I don't misunderstand you, my dear," said she, "so much as I am
afraid you misunderstand yourself. What is it you fear?--you mention
not force, but snares. Is not this to confess, at least, that you have
some doubt of my understanding? do you then really imagine me so weak
as to be cheated of my virtue?--am I to be deceived into an affection
for a man before I perceive the least inward hint of my danger? No,
Mr. Booth, believe me, a woman must be a fool indeed who can have in
earnest such an excuse for her actions. I have not, I think, any very
high opinion of my judgment, but so far I shall rely upon it, that no
man breathing could have any such designs as you have apprehended
without my immediately seeing them; and how I should then act I hope
my whole conduct to you hath sufficiently declared."
"Well, my dear," cries Booth, "I beg you will mention it no more; if
possible, forget it. I hope, nay, I believe, I have been in the wrong;
pray forgive me."
"I will, I do forgive you, my dear," said she, "if forgiveness be a
proper word for one whom you have rather made miserable than angry;
but let me entreat you to banish for ever all such suspicions from
your mind. I hope Mrs. Ellison hath not discovered the real cause of
your passion; but, poor woman, if she had, I am convinced it would go
no farther. Oh, Heavens! I would not for the world it should reach his
lordship's ears. You would lose the best friend that ever man had.
Nay, I would not for his own sake, poor man; for I really believe it
would affect him greatly, and I must, I cannot help having an esteem
for so much goodness. An esteem which, by this dear hand," said she,
taking Booth's hand and kissing it, "no man alive shall ever obtain by
making love to me."
Booth caught her in his arms and tenderly embraced her. After which
the reconciliation soon became complete; and Booth, in the
contemplation of his happiness, entirely buried all his jealous
_A chapter in which there is much learning._
The next morning, whilst Booth was gone to take his morning walk,
Amelia went down into Mrs. Ellison's apartment, where, though she was
received with great civility, yet she found that lady was not at all
pleased with Mr. Booth; and, by some hints which dropt from her in
conversation, Amelia very greatly apprehended that Mrs. Ellison had
too much suspicion of her husband's real uneasiness; for that lady
declared very openly she could not help perceiving what sort of man
Mr. Booth was: "And though I have the greatest regard for you, madam,
in the world," said she, "yet I think myself in honour obliged not to
impose on his lordship, who, I know very well, hath conceived his
greatest liking to the captain on my telling him that he was the best
husband in the world."
Amelia's fears gave her much disturbance, and when her husband
returned she acquainted him with them; upon which occasion, as it was
natural, she resumed a little the topic of their former discourse, nor
could she help casting, though in very gentle terms, some slight blame
on Booth for having entertained a suspicion which, she said, might in
its consequence very possibly prove their ruin, and occasion the loss
of his lordship's friendship.
Booth became highly affected with what his wife said, and the more, as
he had just received a note from Colonel James, informing him that the
colonel had heard of a vacant company in the regiment which Booth had
mentioned to him, and that he had been with his lordship about it, who
had promised to use his utmost interest to obtain him the command.
The poor man now exprest the utmost concern for his yesterday's
behaviour, said "he believed the devil had taken possession of him,"
and concluded with crying out, "Sure I was born, my dearest creature,
to be your torment."
Amelia no sooner saw her husband's distress than she instantly forbore
whatever might seem likely to aggravate it, and applied herself, with
all her power, to comfort him. "If you will give me leave to offer my
advice, my dearest soul," said she, "I think all might yet be
remedied. I think you know me too well to suspect that the desire of
diversion should induce me to mention what I am now going to propose;
and in that confidence I will ask you to let me accept my lord's and
Mrs. Ellison's offer, and go to the masquerade. No matter how little
while I stay there; if you desire it I will not be an hour from you. I
can make an hundred excuses to come home, or tell a real truth, and
say I am tired with the place. The bare going will cure everything."
Amelia had no sooner done speaking than Booth immediately approved her
advice, and readily gave his consent. He could not, however, help
saying, that the shorter her stay was there, the more agreeable it
would be to him; "for you know, my dear," said he, "I would never
willingly be a moment out of your sight."
In the afternoon Amelia sent to invite Mrs. Ellison to a dish of tea;
and Booth undertook to laugh off all that had passed yesterday, in
which attempt the abundant good humour of that lady gave him great
hopes of success.
Mrs. Bennet came that afternoon to make a visit, and was almost an
hour with Booth and Amelia before the entry of Mrs. Ellison.
Mr. Booth had hitherto rather disliked this young lady, and had
wondered at the pleasure which Amelia declared she took in her
company. This afternoon, however, he changed his opinion, and liked
her almost as much as his wife had done. She did indeed behave at this
time with more than ordinary gaiety; and good humour gave a glow to
her countenance that set off her features, which were very pretty, to
the best advantage, and lessened the deadness that had usually
appeared in her complexion.
But if Booth was now pleased with Mrs. Bennet, Amelia was still more
pleased with her than ever. For, when their discourse turned on love,
Amelia discovered that her new friend had all the same sentiments on
that subject with herself. In the course of their conversation Booth
gave Mrs. Bennet a hint of wishing her a good husband, upon which both
the ladies declaimed against second marriages with equal vehemence.
Upon this occasion Booth and his wife discovered a talent in their
visitant to which they had been before entirely strangers, and for
which they both greatly admired her, and this was, that the lady was a
good scholar, in which, indeed, she had the advantage of poor Amelia,
whose reading was confined to English plays and poetry; besides which,
I think she had conversed only with the divinity of the great and
learned Dr Barrow, and with the histories of the excellent Bishop
Amelia delivered herself on the subject of second marriages with much
eloquence and great good sense; but when Mrs. Bennet came to give her
opinion she spoke in the following manner: "I shall not enter into the
question concerning the legality of bigamy. Our laws certainly allow
it, and so, I think, doth our religion. We are now debating only on
the decency of it, and in this light I own myself as strenuous an
advocate against it as any Roman matron would have been in those ages
of the commonwealth when it was held to be infamous. For my own part,
how great a paradox soever my opinion may seem, I solemnly declare, I
see but little difference between having two husbands at one time and
at several times; and of this I am very confident, that the same
degree of love for a first husband which preserves a woman in the one
case will preserve her in the other. There is one argument which I
scarce know how to deliver before you, sir; but--if a woman hath lived
with her first husband without having children, I think it
unpardonable in her to carry barrenness into a second family. On the
contrary, if she hath children by her first husband, to give them a
second father is still more unpardonable."
"But suppose, madam," cries Booth, interrupting her with a smile, "she
should have had children by her first husband, and have lost them?"
"That is a case," answered she, with a sigh, "which I did not desire
to think of, and I must own it the most favourable light in which a
second marriage can be seen. But the Scriptures, as Petrarch observes,
rather suffer them than commend them; and St Jerom speaks against them
with the utmost bitterness."--"I remember," cries Booth (who was
willing either to shew his learning, or to draw out the lady's), "a
very wise law of Charondas, the famous lawgiver of Thurium, by which
men who married a second time were removed from all public councils;
for it was scarce reasonable to suppose that he who was so great a
fool in his own family should be wise in public affairs. And though
second marriages were permitted among the Romans, yet they were at the
same time discouraged, and those Roman widows who refused them were
held in high esteem, and honoured with what Valerius Maximus calls the
Corona Pudicitiae. In the noble family of Camilli there was not, in
many ages, a single instance of this, which Martial calls adultery:
_Quae toties nubit, non nubit; adultera lege est."_
"True, sir," says Mrs. Bennet, "and Virgil calls this a violation of
chastity, and makes Dido speak of it with the utmost detestation:
_Sed mihi vel Tellus optem prius ima dehiscat
Vel Pater omnipotens adigat me fulmine ad umbras,
Pallentes umbras Erebi, noctemque profundam,
Ante, fudor, quam te violo, aut tua jura resolvo.
Ille meos, primum qui me sibi junxit, amores,
Ille habeat semper secum, servetque Sepulchro."_
She repeated these lines with so strong an emphasis, that she almost
frightened Amelia out of her wits, and not a little staggered Booth,
who was himself no contemptible scholar. He expressed great admiration
of the lady's learning; upon which she said it was all the fortune
given her by her father, and all the dower left her by her husband;
"and sometimes," said she, "I am inclined to think I enjoy more
pleasure from it than if they had bestowed on me what the world would
in general call more valuable."--She then took occasion, from the
surprize which Booth had affected to conceive at her repeating Latin
with so good a grace, to comment on that great absurdity (for so she
termed it) of excluding women from learning; for which they were
equally qualified with the men, and in which so many had made so
notable a proficiency; for a proof of which she mentioned Madam
Dacier, and many others.
Though both Booth and Amelia outwardly concurred with her sentiments,
it may be a question whether they did not assent rather out of
complaisance than from their real judgment.
_Containing some unaccountable behaviour in Mrs. Ellison._
Mrs. Ellison made her entrance at the end of the preceding discourse.
At her first appearance she put on an unusual degree of formality and
reserve; but when Amelia had acquainted her that she designed to
accept the favour intended her, she soon began to alter the gravity of
her muscles, and presently fell in with that ridicule which Booth
thought proper to throw on his yesterday's behaviour.
The conversation now became very lively and pleasant, in which Booth
having mentioned the discourse that passed in the last chapter, and
having greatly complimented Mrs. Bennet's speech on that occasion,
Mrs. Ellison, who was as strenuous an advocate on the other side,
began to rally that lady extremely, declaring it was a certain sign
she intended to marry again soon. "Married ladies," cries she, "I
believe, sometimes think themselves in earnest in such declarations,
though they are oftener perhaps meant as compliments to their
husbands; but, when widows exclaim loudly against second marriages, I
would always lay a wager that the man, if not the wedding-day, is
absolutely fixed on."
Mrs. Bennet made very little answer to this sarcasm. Indeed, she had
scarce opened her lips from the time of Mrs. Ellison's coming into the
room, and had grown particularly grave at the mention of the
masquerade. Amelia imputed this to her being left out of the party, a
matter which is often no small mortification to human pride, and in a
whisper asked Mrs. Ellison if she could not procure a third ticket, to
which she received an absolute negative.
During the whole time of Mrs. Bennet's stay, which was above an hour
afterwards, she remained perfectly silent, and looked extremely
melancholy. This made Amelia very uneasy, as she concluded she had
guessed the cause of her vexation. In which opinion she was the more
confirmed from certain looks of no very pleasant kind which Mrs.
Bennet now and then cast on Mrs. Ellison, and the more than ordinary
concern that appeared in the former lady's countenance whenever the
masquerade was mentioned, and which; unfortunately, was the principal
topic of their discourse; for Mrs. Ellison gave a very elaborate
description of the extreme beauty of the place and elegance of the
When Mrs. Bennet was departed, Amelia could not help again soliciting
Mrs. Ellison for another ticket, declaring she was certain Mrs. Bennet
had a great inclination to go with them; but Mrs. Ellison again
excused herself from asking it of his lordship. "Besides, madam," says
she, "if I would go thither with Mrs. Bennet, which, I own to you, I
don't chuse, as she is a person whom _nobody knows_, I very much
doubt whether she herself would like it; for she is a woman of a very
unaccountable turn. All her delight lies in books; and as for public
diversions, I have heard her often declare her abhorrence of them."
"What then," said Amelia, "could occasion all that gravity from the
moment the masquerade was mentioned?"
"As to that," answered the other, "there is no guessing. You have seen
her altogether as grave before now. She hath had these fits of gravity
at times ever since the death of her husband."
"Poor creature!" cries Amelia; "I heartily pity her, for she must
certainly suffer a great deal on these occasions. I declare I have
taken a strange fancy to her."
"Perhaps you would not like her so well if you knew her thoroughly,"
answered Mrs. Ellison.--"She is, upon the whole, but of a whimsical
temper; and, if you will take my opinion, you should not cultivate too
much intimacy with her. I know you will never mention what I say; but
she is like some pictures, which please best at a distance."
Amelia did not seem to agree with these sentiments, and she greatly
importuned Mrs. Ellison to be more explicit, but to no purpose; she
continued to give only dark hints to Mrs. Bennet's disadvantage; and,
if ever she let drop something a little too harsh, she failed not
immediately to contradict herself by throwing some gentle
commendations into the other scale; so that her conduct appeared
utterly unaccountable to Amelia, and, upon the whole, she knew not
whether to conclude Mrs. Ellison to be a friend or enemy to Mrs.
During this latter conversation Booth was not in the room, for he had
been summoned down-stairs by the serjeant, who came to him with news
from Murphy, whom he had met that evening, and who assured the
serjeant that, if he was desirous of recovering the debt which he had
before pretended to have on Booth, he might shortly have an
opportunity, for that there was to be a very strong petition to the
board the next time they sat. Murphy said further that he need not
fear having his money, for that, to his certain knowledge, the captain
had several things of great value, and even his children had gold
This greatly alarmed Booth, and still more when the serjeant reported
to him, from Murphy, that all these things had been seen in his
possession within a day last past. He now plainly perceived, as he
thought, that Murphy himself, or one of his emissaries, had been the
supposed madman; and he now very well accounted to himself, in his own
mind, for all that had happened, conceiving that the design was to
examine into the state of his effects, and to try whether it was worth
his creditors' while to plunder him by law.
At his return to his apartment he communicated what he had heard to
Amelia and Mrs. Ellison, not disguising his apprehensions of the
enemy's intentions; but Mrs. Ellison endeavoured to laugh him out of
his fears, calling him faint-hearted, and assuring him he might depend
on her lawyer. "Till you hear from him," said she, "you may rest
entirely contented: for, take my word for it, no danger can happen to
you of which you will not be timely apprized by him. And as for the
fellow that had the impudence to come into your room, if he was sent
on such an errand as you mention, I heartily wish I had been at home;
I would have secured him safe with a constable, and have carried him
directly before justice Thresher. I know the justice is an enemy to
bailiffs on his own account."
This heartening speech a little roused the courage of Booth, and
somewhat comforted Amelia, though the spirits of both had been too
much hurried to suffer them either to give or receive much
entertainment that evening; which Mrs. Ellison perceiving soon took
her leave, and left this unhappy couple to seek relief from sleep,
that powerful friend to the distrest, though, like other powerful
friends, he is not always ready to give his assistance to those who
want it most.
_Containing a very strange incident._
When the husband and wife were alone they again talked over the news
which the serjeant had brought; on which occasion Amelia did all she
could to conceal her own fears, and to quiet those of her husband. At
last she turned the conversation to another subject, and poor Mrs.
Bennet was brought on the carpet. "I should be sorry," cries Amelia,
"to find I had conceived an affection for a bad woman; and yet I begin
to fear Mrs. Ellison knows something of her more than she cares to
discover; why else should she be unwilling to be seen with her in
public? Besides, I have observed that Mrs. Ellison hath been always
backward to introduce her to me, nor would ever bring her to my
apartment, though I have often desired her. Nay, she hath given me
frequent hints not to cultivate the acquaintance. What do you think,
my dear? I should be very sorry to contract an intimacy with a wicked
"Nay, my dear," cries Booth. "I know no more of her, nor indeed hardly
so much as yourself. But this I think, that if Mrs. Ellison knows any
reason why she should not have introduced Mrs. Bennet into your
company, she was very much in the wrong in introducing her into it."
In discourses of this kind they past the remainder of the evening. In
the morning Booth rose early, and, going down-stairs, received from
little Betty a sealed note, which contained the following words:
Beware, beware, beware;
For I apprehend a dreadful snare
Is laid for virtuous innocence,
Under a friend's false pretence.
Booth immediately enquired of the girl who brought this note? and was
told it came by a chair-man, who, having delivered it, departed
without saying a word.
He was extremely staggered at what he read, and presently referred the
advice to the same affair on which he had received those hints from
Atkinson the preceding evening; but when he came to consider the words
more maturely he could not so well reconcile the two last lines of
this poetical epistle, if it may be so called, with any danger which
the law gave him reason to apprehend. Mr. Murphy and his gang could
not well be said to attack either his innocence or virtue; nor did
they attack him under any colour or pretence of friendship.
After much deliberation on this matter a very strange suspicion came
into his head; and this was, that he was betrayed by Mrs. Ellison. He
had, for some time, conceived no very high opinion of that good
gentlewoman, and he now began to suspect that she was bribed to betray
him. By this means he thought he could best account for the strange
appearance of the supposed madman. And when this conceit once had
birth in his mind, several circumstances nourished and improved it.
Among these were her jocose behaviour and raillery on that occasion,
and her attempt to ridicule his fears from the message which the
serjeant had brought him.
This suspicion was indeed preposterous, and not at all warranted by,
or even consistent with, the character and whole behaviour of Mrs.
Ellison, but it was the only one which at that time suggested itself
to his mind; and, however blameable it might be, it was certainly not
unnatural in him to entertain it; for so great a torment is anxiety to
the human mind, that we always endeavour to relieve ourselves from it
by guesses, however doubtful or uncertain; on all which occasions,
dislike and hatred are the surest guides to lead our suspicion to its
When Amelia rose to breakfast, Booth produced the note which he had
received, saying, "My dear, you have so often blamed me for keeping
secrets from you, and I have so often, indeed, endeavoured to conceal
secrets of this kind from you with such ill success, that I think I
shall never more attempt it." Amelia read the letter hastily, and
seemed not a little discomposed; then, turning to Booth with a very
disconsolate countenance, she said, "Sure fortune takes a delight in
terrifying us! what can be the meaning of this?" Then, fixing her eyes
attentively on the paper, she perused it for some time, till Booth
cried, "How is it possible, my Emily, you can read such stuff
patiently? the verses are certainly as bad as ever were written."--"I
was trying, my dear," answered she, "to recollect the hand; for I will
take my oath I have seen it before, and that very lately;" and
suddenly she cried out, with great emotion, "I remember it perfectly
now; it is Mrs. Bennet's hand. Mrs. Ellison shewed me a letter from
her but a day or two ago. It is a very remarkable hand, and I am
positive it is hers."
"If it be hers," cries Booth, "what can she possibly mean by the
latter part of her caution? sure Mrs. Ellison hath no intention to
"I know not what she means," answered Amelia, "but I am resolved to
know immediately, for I am certain of the hand. By the greatest luck
in the world, she told me yesterday where her lodgings were, when she
pressed me exceedingly to come and see her. She lives but a very few
doors from us, and I will go to her this moment."
Booth made not the least objection to his wife's design. His curiosity
was, indeed, as great as hers, and so was his impatience to satisfy
it, though he mentioned not this his impatience to Amelia; and perhaps
it had been well for him if he had.
Amelia, therefore, presently equipped herself in her walking dress,
and, leaving her children to the care of her husband, made all
possible haste to Mrs. Bennet's lodgings.
Amelia waited near five minutes at Mrs. Bennet's door before any one
came to open it; at length a maid servant appeared, who, being asked
if Mrs. Bennet was at home, answered, with some confusion in her
countenance, that she did not know; "but, madam," said she, "if you
will send up your name, I will go and see." Amelia then told her name,
and the wench, after staying a considerable time, returned and
acquainted her that Mrs. Bennet was at home. She was then ushered into
a parlour and told that the lady would wait on her presently.
In this parlour Amelia cooled her heels, as the phrase is, near a
quarter of an hour. She seemed, indeed, at this time, in the miserable
situation of one of those poor wretches who make their morning visits
to the great to solicit favours, or perhaps to solicit the payment of
a debt, for both are alike treated as beggars, and the latter
sometimes considered as the more troublesome beggars of the two.
During her stay here, Amelia observed the house to be in great
confusion; a great bustle was heard above-stairs, and the maid ran up
and down several times in a great hurry.
At length Mrs. Bennet herself came in. She was greatly disordered in
her looks, and had, as the women call it, huddled on her cloaths in
much haste; for, in truth, she was in bed when Amelia first came. Of
this fact she informed her, as the only apology she could make for
having caused her to wait so long for her company.
Amelia very readily accepted her apology, but asked her with a smile,
if these early hours were usual with her? Mrs. Bennet turned as red as
scarlet at the question, and answered, "No, indeed, dear madam. I am
for the most part a very early riser; but I happened accidentally to
sit up very late last night. I am sure I had little expectation of
your intending me such a favour this morning."
Amelia, looking very steadfastly at her, said, "Is it possible, madam,
you should think such a note as this would raise no curiosity in me?"
She then gave her the note, asking her if she did not know the hand.
Mrs. Bennet appeared in the utmost surprize and confusion at this
instant. Indeed, if Amelia had conceived but the slightest suspicion
before, the behaviour of the lady would have been a sufficient
confirmation to her of the truth. She waited not, therefore, for an
answer, which, indeed, the other seemed in no haste to give, but
conjured her in the most earnest manner to explain to her the meaning
of so extraordinary an act of friendship; "for so," said she, "I
esteem it, being convinced you must have sufficient reason for the
warning you have given me."
Mrs. Bennet, after some hesitation, answered, "I need not, I believe,
tell you how much I am surprized at what you have shewn me; and the
chief reason of my surprize is, how you came to discover my hand.
Sure, madam, you have not shewn it to Mrs. Ellison?"
Amelia declared she had not, but desired she would question her no
farther. "What signifies how I discovered it, since your hand it
"I own it is," cries Mrs. Bennet, recovering her spirits, "and since
you have not shewn it to that woman I am satisfied. I begin to guess
now whence you might have your information; but no matter; I wish I
had never done anything of which I ought to be more ashamed. No one
can, I think, justly accuse me of a crime on that account; and I thank
Heaven my shame will never be directed by the false opinion of the
world. Perhaps it was wrong to shew my letter, but when I consider all
circumstances I can forgive it."
"Since you have guessed the truth," said Amelia, "I am not obliged to
deny it. She, indeed, shewed me your letter, but I am sure you have
not the least reason to be ashamed of it. On the contrary, your
behaviour on so melancholy an occasion was highly praiseworthy; and
your bearing up under such afflictions as the loss of a husband in so
dreadful a situation was truly great and heroical."
"So Mrs. Ellison then hath shewn you my letter?" cries Mrs. Bennet
"Why, did not you guess it yourself?" answered Amelia; "otherwise I am
sure I have betrayed my honour in mentioning it. I hope you have not
drawn me inadvertently into any breach of my promise. Did you not
assert, and that with an absolute certainty, that you knew she had
shewn me your letter, and that you was not angry with her for so
"I am so confused," replied Mrs. Bennet, "that I scarce know what I
say; yes, yes, I remember I did say so--I wish I had no greater reason
to be angry with her than that."
"For Heaven's sake," cries Amelia, "do not delay my request any
longer; what you say now greatly increases my curiosity, and my mind
will be on the rack till you discover your whole meaning; for I am
more and more convinced that something of the utmost importance was
the purport of your message."
"Of the utmost importance, indeed," cries Mrs. Bennet; "at least you
will own my apprehensions were sufficiently well founded. O gracious
Heaven! how happy shall I think myself if I should have proved your
preservation! I will, indeed, explain my meaning; but, in order to
disclose all my fears in their just colours, I must unfold my whole
history to you. Can you have patience, madam, to listen to the story
of the most unfortunate of women?"
Amelia assured her of the highest attention, and Mrs. Bennet soon
after began to relate what is written in the seventh book of this
_A very short chapter, and consequently requiring no preface._
Mrs. Bennet having fastened the door, and both the ladies having taken
their places, she once or twice offered to speak, when passion stopt
her utterance; and, after a minute's silence, she burst into a flood
of tears. Upon which Amelia, expressing the utmost tenderness for her,
as well by her look as by her accent, cried, "What can be the reason,
dear madam, of all this emotion?" "O, Mrs. Booth!" answered she, "I
find I have undertaken what I am not able to perform. You would not
wonder at my emotion if you knew you had an adulteress and a murderer
now standing before you."
Amelia turned pale as death at these words, which Mrs. Bennet
observing, collected all the force she was able, and, a little
composing her countenance, cried, "I see, madam, I have terrified you
with such dreadful words; but I hope you will not think me guilty of
these crimes in the blackest degree." "Guilty!" cries Amelia. "O
Heavens!" "I believe, indeed, your candour," continued Mrs. Bennet,
"will be readier to acquit me than I am to acquit myself.
Indiscretion, at least, the highest, most unpardonable indiscretion, I
shall always lay to ray own charge: and, when I reflect on the fatal
consequences, I can never, never forgive myself. "Here she again began
to lament in so bitter a manner, that Amelia endeavoured, as much as
she could (for she was herself greatly shocked), to soothe and comfort
her; telling her that, if indiscretion was her highest crime, the
unhappy consequences made her rather an unfortunate than a guilty
person; and concluded by saying--"Indeed, madam, you have raised my
curiosity to the highest pitch, and I beg you will proceed with your
Mrs. Bennet then seemed a second time going to begin her relation,
when she cried out, "I would, if possible, tire you with no more of my
unfortunate life than just with that part which leads to a catastrophe
in which I think you may yourself be interested; but I protest I am at
a loss where to begin."
"Begin wherever you please, dear madam," cries Amelia; "but I beg you
will consider my impatience." "I do consider it," answered Mrs.
Bennet; "and therefore would begin with that part of my story which
leads directly to what concerns yourself; for how, indeed, should my
life produce anything worthy your notice?" "Do not say so, madam,"
cries Amelia; "I assure you I have long suspected there were some very
remarkable incidents in your life, and have only wanted an opportunity
to impart to you my desire of hearing them: I beg, therefore, you
would make no more apologies." "I will not, madam," cries Mrs. Bennet,
"and yet I would avoid anything trivial; though, indeed, in stories of
distress, especially where love is concerned, many little incidents
may appear trivial to those who have never felt the passion, which, to
delicate minds, are the most interesting part of the whole." "Nay,
but, dear madam," cries Amelia, "this is all preface."
"Well, madam," answered Mrs. Bennet, "I will consider your
impatience." She then rallied all her spirits in the best manner she
could, and began as is written in the next chapter.
And here possibly the reader will blame Mrs. Bennet for taking her
story so far back, and relating so much of her life in which Amelia
had no concern; but, in truth, she was desirous of inculcating a good
opinion of herself, from recounting those transactions where her
conduct was unexceptionable, before she came to the more dangerous and
suspicious part of her character. This I really suppose to have been
her intention; for to sacrifice the time and patience of Amelia at
such a season to the mere love of talking of herself would have been
as unpardonable in her as the bearing it was in Amelia a proof of the
most perfect good breeding.
_The beginning of Mrs. Bennet's history._
"I was the younger of two daughters of a clergyman in Essex; of one in
whose praise if I should indulge my fond heart in speaking, I think my
invention could not outgo the reality. He was indeed well worthy of
the cloth he wore; and that, I think, is the highest character a man
"During the first part of my life, even till I reached my sixteenth
year, I can recollect nothing to relate to you. All was one long
serene day, in looking back upon which, as when we cast our eyes on a
calm sea, no object arises to my view. All appears one scene of
happiness and tranquillity.
"On the day, then, when I became sixteen years old, must I begin my
history; for on that day I first tasted the bitterness of sorrow.
"My father, besides those prescribed by our religion, kept five
festivals every year. These were on his wedding-day, and on the
birthday of each of his little family; on these occasions he used to
invite two or three neighbours to his house, and to indulge himself,
as he said, in great excess; for so he called drinking a pint of very
small punch; and, indeed, it might appear excess to one who on other
days rarely tasted any liquor stronger than small beer.
"Upon my unfortunate birthday, then, when we were all in a high degree
of mirth, my mother having left the room after dinner, and staying
away pretty long, my father sent me to see for her. I went according
to his orders; but, though I searched the whole house and called after
her without doors, I could neither see nor hear her. I was a little
alarmed at this (though far from suspecting any great mischief had
befallen her), and ran back to acquaint my father, who answered coolly
(for he was a man of the calmest temper), 'Very well, my dear, I
suppose she is not gone far, and will be here immediately.' Half an
hour or more past after this, when, she not returning, my father
himself expressed some surprize at her stay; declaring it must be some
matter of importance which could detain her at that time from her
company. His surprize now encreased every minute, and he began to grow
uneasy, and to shew sufficient symptoms in his countenance of what he
felt within. He then despatched the servant-maid to enquire after her
mistress in the parish, but waited not her return; for she was scarce
gone out of doors before he begged leave of his guests to go himself
on the same errand. The company now all broke up, and attended my
father, all endeavouring to give him hopes that no mischief had
happened. They searched the whole parish, but in vain; they could
neither see my mother, nor hear any news of her. My father returned
home in a state little short of distraction. His friends in vain
attempted to administer either advice or comfort; he threw himself on
the floor in the most bitter agonies of despair.
"Whilst he lay in this condition, my sister and myself lying by him,
all equally, I believe, and completely miserable, our old servant-maid
came into the room and cried out, her mind misgave her that she knew
where her mistress was. Upon these words, my father sprung from the
floor, and asked her eagerly, where? But oh! Mrs. Booth, how can I
describe the particulars of a scene to you, the remembrance of which
chills my blood with horror, and which the agonies of my mind, when it
past, made all a scene of confusion! The fact then in short was this:
my mother, who was a most indulgent mistress to one servant, which was
all we kept, was unwilling, I suppose, to disturb her at her dinner,
and therefore went herself to fill her tea-kettle at a well, into
which, stretching herself too far, as we imagine, the water then being
very low, she fell with the tea-kettle in her hand. The missing this
gave the poor old wretch the first hint of her suspicion, which, upon
examination, was found to be too well grounded.
"What we all suffered on this occasion may more easily be felt than
described."---"It may indeed," answered Amelia, "and I am so sensible
of it, that, unless you have a mind to see me faint before your face,
I beg you will order me something; a glass of water, if you please.
"Mrs. Bennet immediately complied with her friend's request; a glass
of water was brought, and some hartshorn drops infused into it; which
Amelia having drank off, declared she found herself much better; and
then Mrs. Bennet proceeded thus:--"I will not dwell on a scene which I
see hath already so much affected your tender heart, and which is as
disagreeable to me to relate as it can be to you to hear. I will
therefore only mention to you the behaviour of my father on this
occasion, which was indeed becoming a philosopher and a Christian
divine. On the day after my mother's funeral he sent for my sister and
myself into his room, where, after many caresses and every
demonstration of fatherly tenderness as well in silence as in words,
he began to exhort us to bear with patience the great calamity that
had befallen us; saying, 'That as every human accident, how terrible
soever, must happen to us by divine permission at least, a due sense
of our duty to our great Creator must teach us an absolute submission
to his will. Not only religion, but common sense, must teach us this;
for oh! my dear children,' cries he, 'how vain is all resistance, all
repining! could tears wash back again my angel from the grave, I
should drain all the juices of my body through my eyes; but oh, could
we fill up that cursed well with our tears, how fruitless would be all
our sorrow!'--I think I repeat you his very words; for the impression
they made on me is never to be obliterated. He then proceeded to
comfort us with the chearful thought that the loss was entirely our
own, and that my mother was greatly a gainer by the accident which we
lamented. 'I have a wife,' cries he, 'my children, and you have a
mother, now amongst the heavenly choir; how selfish therefore is all
our grief! how cruel to her are all our wishes!' In this manner he
talked to us near half an hour, though I must frankly own to you his
arguments had not the immediate good effect on us which they deserved,
for we retired from him very little the better for his exhortations;
however, they became every day more and more forcible upon our
recollection; indeed, they were greatly strengthened by his example;
for in this, as in all other instances, he practised the doctrines
which he taught. From this day he never mentioned my mother more, and
soon after recovered his usual chearfulness in public; though I have
reason to think he paid many a bitter sigh in private to that
remembrance which neither philosophy nor Christianity could expunge.
"My father's advice, enforced by his example, together with the
kindness of some of our friends, assisted by that ablest of all the
mental physicians, Time, in a few months pretty well restored my
tranquillity, when fortune made a second attack on my quiet. My
sister, whom I dearly loved, and who as warmly returned my affection,
had fallen into an ill state of health some time before the fatal
accident which I have related. She was indeed at that time so much
better, that we had great hopes of her perfect recovery; but the
disorders of her mind on that dreadful occasion so affected her body,
that she presently relapsed to her former declining state, and thence
grew continually worse and worse, till, after a decay of near seven
months, she followed my poor mother to the grave.
"I will not tire you, dear madam, with repetitions of grief; I will
only mention two observations which have occurred to me from
reflections on the two losses I have mentioned. The first is, that a
mind once violently hurt grows, as it were, callous to any future
impressions of grief, and is never capable of feeling the same pangs a
second time. The other observation is, that the arrows of fortune, as
well as all others, derive their force from the velocity with which
they are discharged; for, when they approach you by slow and
perceptible degrees, they have but very little power to do you
"The truth of these observations I experienced, not only in my own
heart, but in the behaviour of my father, whose philosophy seemed to
gain a complete triumph over this latter calamity.
"Our family was now reduced to two, and my father grew extremely fond
of me, as if he had now conferred an entire stock of affection on me,
that had before been divided. His words, indeed, testified no less,
for he daily called me his only darling, his whole comfort, his all.
He committed the whole charge of his house to my care, and gave me the
name of his little housekeeper, an appellation of which I was then as
proud as any minister of state can be of his titles. But, though I was
very industrious in the discharge of my occupation, I did not,
however, neglect my studies, in which I had made so great a
proficiency, that I was become a pretty good mistress of the Latin
language, and had made some progress in the Greek. I believe, madam, I
have formerly acquainted you, that learning was the chief estate I
inherited of my father, in which he had instructed me from my earliest
"The kindness of this good man had at length wiped off the remembrance
of all losses; and I during two years led a life of great
tranquillity, I think I might almost say of perfect happiness.
"I was now. in the nineteenth year of my age, when my father's good
fortune removed us from the county of Essex into Hampshire, where a
living was conferred on him by one of his old school-fellows, of twice
the value of what he was before possessed of.
"His predecessor in this new living had died in very indifferent
circumstances, and had left behind him a widow with two small
children. My father, therefore, who, with great economy, had a most
generous soul, bought the whole furniture of the parsonage-house at a
very high price; some of it, indeed, he would have wanted; for, though
our little habitation in Essex was most completely furnished, yet it
bore no proportion to the largeness of that house in which he was now
"His motive, however, to the purchase was, I am convinced, solely
generosity; which appeared sufficiently by the price he gave, and may
be farther inforced by the kindness he shewed the widow in another
instance; for he assigned her an apartment for the use of herself and
her little family, which, he told her, she was welcome to enjoy as
long as it suited her conveniency.
"As this widow was very young, and generally thought to be tolerably
pretty, though I own she had a cast with her eyes which I never liked,
my father, you may suppose, acted from a less noble principle than I
have hinted; but I must in justice acquit him, for these kind offers
were made her before ever he had seen her face; and I have the
greatest reason to think that, for a long time after he had seen her,
he beheld her with much indifference.
"This act of my father's gave me, when I first heard it, great
satisfaction; for I may at least, with the modesty of the ancient
philosophers, call myself a lover of generosity, but when I became
acquainted with the widow I was still more delighted with what my
father had done; for though I could not agree with those who thought
her a consummate beauty, I must allow that she was very fully
possessed of the power of making herself agreeable; and this power she
exerted with so much success, with such indefatigable industry to
oblige, that within three months I became in the highest manner
pleased with my new acquaintance, and had contracted the most sincere
friendship for her.
"But, if I was so pleased with the widow, my father was by this time
enamoured of her. She had, indeed, by the most artful conduct in the
world, so insinuated herself into his favour, so entirely infatuated
him, that he never shewed the least marks of chearfulness in her
absence, and could, in truth, scarce bear that she should be out of
"She had managed this matter so well (O, she is the most artful of
women!) that my father's heart was gone before I ever suspected it was
in danger. The discovery you may easily believe, madam, was not
pleasing. The name of a mother-in-law sounded dreadful in my ears; nor
could I bear the thought of parting again with a share in those dear
affections, of which I had purchased the whole by the loss of a
beloved mother and sister.
"In the first hurry and disorder of my mind on this occasion I
committed a crime of the highest kind against all the laws of prudence
and discretion. I took the young lady herself very roundly to task,
treated her designs on my father as little better than a design to
commit a theft, and in my passion, I believe, said she might be
ashamed to think of marrying a man old enough to be her grandfather;
for so in reality he almost was.
"The lady on this occasion acted finely the part of a hypocrite. She
affected to be highly affronted at my unjust suspicions, as she called
them; and proceeded to such asseverations of her innocence, that she
almost brought me to discredit the evidence of my own eyes and ears.
"My father, however, acted much more honestly, for he fell the next
day into a more violent passion with me than I had ever seen him in
before, and asked me whether I intended to return his paternal
fondness by assuming the right of controlling his inclinations? with
more of the like kind, which fully convinced me what had passed
between him and the lady, and how little I had injured her in my
"Hitherto, I frankly own, my aversion to this match had been
principally on my own account; for I had no ill opinion of the woman,
though I thought neither her circumstances nor my father's age
promised any kind of felicity from such an union; but now I learnt
some particulars, which, had not our quarrel become public in the
parish, I should perhaps have never known. In short, I was Informed
that this gentle obliging creature, as she had at first appeared to
me, had the spirit of a tigress, and was by many believed to have
broken the heart of her first husband.
"The truth of this matter being confirmed to me upon examination, I
resolved not to suppress it. On this occasion fortune seemed to favour
me, by giving me a speedy opportunity of seeing my father alone and in
good humour. He now first began to open his intended marriage, telling
me that he had formerly had some religious objections to bigamy, but
he had very fully considered the matter, and had satisfied himself of
its legality. He then faithfully promised me that no second marriage
should in the least impair his affection for me; and concluded with
the highest eulogiums on the goodness of the widow, protesting that it
was her virtues and not her person with which he was enamoured.
"I now fell upon my knees before him, and bathing his hand in my
tears, which flowed very plentifully from my eyes, acquainted him with
all I had heard, and was so very imprudent, I might almost say so
cruel, to disclose the author of my information.
"My father heard me without any indication of passion, and answered
coldly, that if there was any proof of such facts he should decline
any further thoughts of this match: 'But, child,' said he, 'though I
am far from suspecting the truth of what you tell me, as far as
regards your knowledge, yet you know the inclination of the world to
slander.' However, before we parted he promised to make a proper
enquiry into what I had told him.--But I ask your pardon, dear madam,
I am running minutely into those particulars of my life in which you
have not the least concern."
Amelia stopt her friend short in her apology; and though, perhaps, she
thought her impertinent enough, yet (such was her good breeding) she
gave her many assurances of a curiosity to know every incident of her
life which she could remember; after which Mrs. Bennet proceeded as in
the next chapter.
_Continuation of Mrs. Bennet's story._
"I think, madam," said Mrs. Bennet, "I told you my father promised me
to enquire farther into the affair, but he had hardly time to keep his
word; for we separated pretty late in the evening and early the next
morning he was married to the widow.
"But, though he gave no credit to my information, I had sufficient
reason to think he did not forget it, by the resentment which he soon
discovered to both the persons whom I had named as my informers.
"Nor was it long before I had good cause to believe that my father's
new wife was perfectly well acquainted with the good opinion I had of
her, not only from her usage of me, but from certain hints which she
threw forth with an air of triumph. One day, particularly, I remember
she said to my father, upon his mentioning his age, 'O, my dear! I
hope you have many years yet to live! unless, indeed, I should be so
cruel as to break your heart' She spoke these words looking me full in
the face, and accompanied them with a sneer in which the highest
malice was visible, under a thin covering of affected pleasantry.
"I will not entertain you, madam, with anything so common as the cruel
usage of a step-mother; nor of what affected me much more, the unkind
behaviour of a father under such an influence. It shall suffice only
to tell you that I had the mortification to perceive the gradual and
daily decrease of my father's affection. His smiles were converted
into frowns; the tender appellations of child and dear were exchanged
for plain Molly, that girl, that creature, and sometimes much harder
names. I was at first turned all at once into a cypher, and at last
seemed to be considered as a nuisance in the family.
"Thus altered was the man of whom I gave you such a character at the
entrance on my story; but, alas! he no longer acted from his own
excellent disposition, but was in everything governed and directed by
my mother-in-law. In fact, whenever there is great disparity of years
between husband and wife, the younger is, I believe, always possessed
of absolute power over the elder; for superstition itself is a less
firm support of absolute power than dotage.
"But, though his wife was so entirely mistress of my father's will
that she could make him use me ill, she could not so perfectly subdue
his understanding as to prevent him from being conscious of such ill-
usage; and from this consciousness, he began inveterately to hate me.
Of this hatred he gave me numberless instances, and I protest to you I
know not any other reason for it than what I have assigned; and the
cause, as experience hath convinced me, is adequate to the effect.
"While I was in this wretched situation, my father's unkindness having
almost broken ray heart, he came one day into my room with more anger
in his countenance than I had ever seen, and, after bitterly
upbraiding me with my undutiful behaviour both to himself and his
worthy consort, he bid me pack up my alls, and immediately prepare to
quit his house; at the same time gave me a letter, and told me that
would acquaint me where I might find a home; adding that he doubted
not but I expected, and had indeed solicited, the invitation; and left
me with a declaration that he would have no spies in his family.
"The letter, I found on opening it, was from my father's own sister;
but before I mention the contents I will give you a short sketch of
her character, as it was somewhat particular. Her personal charms were
not great; for she was very tall, very thin, and very homely. Of the
defect of her beauty she was, perhaps, sensible; her vanity,
therefore, retreated into her mind, where there is no looking-glass,
and consequently where we can flatter ourselves with discovering
almost whatever beauties we please. This is an encouraging
circumstance; and yet I have observed, dear Mrs. Booth, that few women
ever seek these comforts from within till they are driven to it by
despair of finding any food for their vanity from without. Indeed, I
believe the first wish of our whole sex is to be handsome."
Here both the ladies fixed their eyes on the glass, and both smiled.
"My aunt, however," continued Mrs. Bennet, "from despair of gaining
any applause this way, had applied herself entirely to the
contemplation of her understanding, and had improved this to such a
pitch, that at the age of fifty, at which she was now arrived, she had
contracted a hearty contempt for much the greater part of both sexes;
for the women, as being idiots, and for the men, as the admirers of
idiots. That word, and fool, were almost constantly in her mouth, and
were bestowed with great liberality among all her acquaintance.
"This lady had spent one day only at my father's house in near two
years; it was about a month before his second marriage. At her
departure she took occasion to whisper me her opinion of the widow,
whom she called a pretty idiot, and wondered how her brother could
bear such company under his roof; for neither she nor I had at that
time any suspicion of what afterwards happened.
"The letter which my father had just received, and which was the first
she had sent him since his marriage, was of such a nature that I
should be unjust if I blamed him for being offended; fool and idiot
were both plentifully bestowed in it as well on himself as on his
wife. But what, perhaps, had principally offended him was that part
which related to me; for, after much panegyric on my understanding,
and saying he was unworthy of such a daughter, she considered his
match not only as the highest indiscretion as it related to himself,
but as a downright act of injustice to me. One expression in it I
shall never forget. 'You have placed,' said she, 'a woman above your
daughter, who, in understanding, the only valuable gift of nature, is
the lowest in the whole class of pretty idiots.' After much more of
this kind, it concluded with inviting me to her house.
"I can truly say that when I had read the letter I entirely forgave my
father's suspicion that I had made some complaints to my aunt of his
behaviour; for, though I was indeed innocent, there was surely colour
enough to suspect the contrary.
"Though I had never been greatly attached to my aunt, nor indeed had
she formerly given me any reason for such an attachment, yet I was
well enough pleased with her present invitation. To say the truth, I
led so wretched a life where I then was, that it was impossible not to
be a gainer by any exchange.
"I could not, however, bear the thoughts of leaving my father with an
impression on his mind against me which I did not deserve. I
endeavoured, therefore, to remove all his suspicion of my having
complained to my aunt by the most earnest asseverations of my
innocence; but they were all to no purpose. All my tears, all my vows,
and all my entreaties were fruitless. My new mother, indeed, appeared
to be my advocate; but she acted her part very poorly, and, far from
counterfeiting any desire of succeeding in my suit, she could not
conceal the excessive joy which she felt on the occasion.
"Well, madam, the next day I departed for my aunt's, where, after a
long journey of forty miles, I arrived, without having once broke my
fast on the road; for grief is as capable as food of filling the
stomach, and I had too much of the former to admit any of the latter.
The fatigue of my journey, and the agitation of my mind, joined to my
fasting, so overpowered my spirits, that when I was taken from my
horse I immediately fainted away in the arms of the man who helped me
from my saddle. My aunt expressed great astonishment at seeing me in
this condition, with my eyes almost swollen out of my head with tears;
but my father's letter, which I delivered her soon after I came to
myself, pretty well, I believe, cured her surprize. She often smiled
with a mixture of contempt and anger while she was reading it; and,
having pronounced her brother to be a fool, she turned to me, and,
with as much affability as possible (for she is no great mistress of
affability), said, 'Don't be uneasy, dear Molly, for you are come to
the house of a friend--of one who hath sense enough to discern the
author of all the mischief: depend upon it, child, I will, ere long,
make some people ashamed of their folly.' This kind reception gave me
some comfort, my aunt assuring me that she would convince him how
unjustly he had accused me of having made any complaints to her. A
paper war was now begun between these two, which not only fixed an
irreconcileable hatred between them, but confirmed my father's
displeasure against me; and, in the end, I believe, did me no service
with my aunt; for I was considered by both as the cause of their
dissension, though, in fact, my stepmother, who very well knew the
affection my aunt had for her, had long since done her business with
my father; and as for my aunt's affection towards him, it had been
abating several years, from an apprehension that he did not pay
sufficient deference to her understanding.
"I had lived about half a year with my aunt when I heard of my
stepmother's being delivered of a boy, and the great joy my father
expressed on that occasion; but, poor man, he lived not long to enjoy
his happiness; for within a month afterwards I had the melancholy news
of his death.
"Notwithstanding all the disobligations I had lately received from
him, I was sincerely afflicted at my loss of him. All his kindness to
me in my infancy, all his kindness to me while I was growing up,
recurred to my memory, raised a thousand tender, melancholy ideas, and
totally obliterated all thoughts of his latter behaviour, for which I
made also every allowance and every excuse in my power.